Overcast 30° Good Afternoon
Overcast 30° Good Afternoon

Filing for Social Security spousal benefits when divorced

There are important differences between Social Security rules

There are important differences between Social Security rules for married people, those who are divorced and survivors. Photo Credit: iStock

I'm 62 and divorced. I was married for more than 10 years and never remarried. I asked Social Security if I could collect on my ex-husband's account while I still work and let mine grow. First, they said yes. Later, I was told I can't collect on my ex's record until he reaches full retirement age. He's 63. With different answers, what's a person to do?


It's always smart to check answers on the agency's thorough website,

You meet the requirements to apply for a benefit based on your ex's record: You were married at least 10 years, you haven't remarried and you're both older than 62. (It doesn't matter whether he has filed for his benefit, or that he's under his full retirement age.)

But during his lifetime, you must be your full retirement age or older to postpone your own benefit while collecting on his record. If you apply at 62, you'll be filing for both benefits and receive an amount equal to the larger of the two. (By contrast, if he were dead, you could file for a survivor's benefit based on his record as early as age 60 while postponing your own benefit.)

Also, if you're younger than full retirement age and work while collecting Social Security -- whether based on your record or someone else's -- there's an annual limit to what you can earn without forfeiting some benefit. In 2014, Social Security withholds $1 of benefit for every $2 you earn over $15,480 until the year you turn 66. Then $1 of benefit is withheld for each $3 you earn over $41,400 until your birthday month. Then the earnings limit disappears and your benefit is recalculated to make up for what you forfeited earlier.

The bottom line There are important differences between Social Security rules for married people, those who are divorced and survivors.

Websites with more information and

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert/Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4226, or email Include your name, address and phone number. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own advisers for your specific needs.

More Lifestyle

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to Newsday is free for Optimum customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.