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How divorced spouses claim Social Security

My ex-husband is 59 years old. I believe he’s collecting Social Security disability. We were married for 16 years. I’m 58 12. Am I eligible to receive his benefit or must I wait until I’m 67? What documents do I need to prove we were married? How do I get his Social Security number, and where do I go to start this?

If you qualify for a Social Security retirement benefit based on your ex-husband’s work record, the earliest you can claim it is age 62.

You can collect a benefit based on a former spouse’s record if you meet these four requirements: 1) Your marriage lasted at least 10 years. 2) You and your ex are both Social Security-eligible — i.e., you’re both at least 62 years old, or qualify for Social Security disability. 3) You’re currently unmarried. 4) Your benefit based on your former spouse’s record is greater than the amount you’d collect based on your own work record. (You can only receive the larger of the two amounts, not both.)

Your maximum Social Security benefit based on your ex’s record is 50 percent of his full benefit; but to collect that much, you must delay your application until your full retirement age. If you were born in 1959, that’s 66 years and 10 months. If you apply at 62, you’ll only get 32.9 percent of his full benefit.

Make an appointment at your local Social Security Administration field office. Bring your marriage certificate and divorce decree, proof of your age, U.S. citizenship or legal residence, and a photo ID. You must provide your ex-husband’s name and date of birth, but it’s not essential to have his Social Security number. The agency can retrieve it.

THE BOTTOM LINE It’s possible to qualify for Social Security based on a former spouse’s record.

WEBSITES WITH MORE INFORMATION

nwsdy.li/SSrules

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert/Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747; or, email act2@newsday.com. Include your name, address and phone numbers. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your professional consultants for your specific needs.

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