Spousal Social Security Benefits: All You Need To Know

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Being married not only can help people emotionally but could benefit you financially as well, especially when it comes to Social Security. If you are not eligible for Social Security benefits because you never worked or didn’t work enough, you may still qualify for spousal Social Security benefits. 

You may be eligible for spousal benefits even if you are divorced, provided your ex gets benefits of their own. Eligible Americans can get up to 50% of their spouses’ retirement benefits. Moreover, the benefits payment won’t reduce the other spouse’s benefits in any way.

Thus, it is very important for married couples to know how spousal social security benefits work.

Who Qualifies For Spousal Social Security Benefits?

To qualify for spousal benefits, the other spouse must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be at least 62 years old, or taking care of a child (below 16 or disabled) of a Social Security recipient.
  • Must be married to someone presently receiving retirement benefits.
  • Should have been married for at least a year to the Social Security recipient.
  • The benefit amount must not be higher than the benefit based on their own work history.

How Can An Ex-Spouse Claim Spousal Benefits?

An ex-spouse can claim the spousal benefits if they meet the following criteria:

  • The ex-spouse must be eligible for Social Security benefits.
  • Must be at least 62 years old and not married. You can claim the benefits even if your ex-spouse is remarried and the current spouse (of your ex-spouse) is collecting the benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history.
  • You must be married to the Social Security recipient for a minimum of 10 years before the finalization of divorce. If you remarried but divorced your second spouse, you will be allowed to claim the benefits from either spouse, provided each marriage lasted for a minimum of 10 years.
  • Also, you must not be entitled to the same or higher benefits based on your own earnings history.

If your ex-spouse is deceased and you are unmarried, you can claim the benefits as early as age 60. If your ex-spouse is deceased and you become disabled within seven years of his or her death, then you could collect the benefits as early as age 50.

What Are The Rules For A Same-Sex Spouse?

The spousal Social Security benefits rules for same-sex spouses are the same as the opposite-sex spouses. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, and this paved the way for the same-sex spouse to receive spousal benefits as well.

Prior to this ruling, the spousal benefits to same-sex spouses were only available in states that recognized same-sex marriage.

How Spousal Social Security Benefits Reduce By Age

If your spouse claims the benefits before the full retirement age, then his or her benefits are reduced. So even if you claim spousal benefits before the full retirement age, your benefits be reduced as well.

For example, if the full retirement age of someone is 66, the reduction in spousal benefits, in this case, will be:

  • You will get 35% of spouse’s benefits at age 62.
  • You will get 37.5% of spouse’s benefits at age 63.
  • At age 64, you will receive 41.7% of your spouse’s benefits.
  • And, you will get 45.8% of spouse’s benefits at age 65.

It must be noted that the minimum age to claim retirement is 62. In such a case, you will get just 32.5% of spouse’s benefit, according to the SSA (Social Security Administration).

How To Apply For Spousal Social Security Benefits

You can use the SSA’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST), to determine whether or not you qualify for spousal benefits.

If you qualify for spousal benefits, you can easily apply online by visiting ssa.gov. Once you submit the required information, the system will automatically determine your eligibility for spousal benefits.

You must keep ready the following information when you are applying for spousal benefits:

  • Date of birth of your spouse and ex-spouse.
  • Your spouse’s Social Security number.
  • Date of birth and location of your marriage.
  • Your marriage certificate, if asked.

Points To Note

Before you file for spousal benefits, it is important for you to know:

  • If you intend to claim spousal benefits, there is no point in delaying. You can boost your own Social Security benefits by delaying taking your benefits. The same thing, however, doesn’t apply to spousal benefits. So, even if you file for spousal benefits at age 70, you will get the same benefit that you will get by filing at full retirement age (FRA).
  • If you are married, you can’t claim the spousal benefit unless your spouse files for Social Security. If you are divorced, you don’t need to wait for your ex-spouse to claim Social Security to file for spousal benefits. However, if you are married, you won’t be able to sign up for spousal benefits unless your spouse claims Social Security.
  • You can’t collect both – your own benefit and that of your spouse’s. If you worked for the required number of years, then you are entitled to Social Security. However, if your spouse earns much more than you, then claiming spousal benefits only is better as it could leave you with a higher monthly check.