4/16/2012 12:15 PM ET|
Social Security on ex's record?
If you are divorced, you may be eligible for benefits based on the earnings of a former spouse. It will depend on the length of your marriage, among other things.
There is a minimum amount of time you have to be married to claim someone else's Social Security benefits.
"You have to be married at least 10 years," says Michael Webb, Social Security spokesman for the Seattle region. "Nine years and 11 months doesn't cut it. It's got to be the full 10 years."
If you meet the 10-year requirement, you can get up to 50% of the amount of Social Security benefits your ex receives. It does not reduce his (or her) benefits.
For most people, the marriage begins the day of the ceremony and ends when the divorce is finalized. If you live in a state that recognizes common-law marriages, however, you may be "considered married" as long as you were living together and you meet other requirements for that state. (If most people thought you were married, you probably qualify.) Common-law marriages are recognized in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington, D.C., although several states are starting to phase out common-law marriage rules.
You'll have to show the Social Security Administration you had a common-law marriage by meeting the specific requirements in the state where the marriage began.
Does it matter if my ex is still living?
Whether your ex is still living matters a lot in the amount of benefits you'll receive.
"A lot of people don't know that there are different rules if the ex-spouse is alive or deceased," says Webb.
"When a person goes from a divorced spouse to a surviving divorced spouse, the benefit amount will increase," says Webb. The amount depends on whether you have reached full retirement age. "In general, if a surviving spouse is over full retirement age, they could generally expect to receive the payment amount of the deceased ex-spouse," he says.
In addition, if your ex-spouse is still living, you must be age 62 or older to receive Social Security benefits. But if your ex is deceased, you may be able to start taking benefits at age 60, or age 50 if you are disabled.
If you have a child younger than 16 who also belonged to your ex who is retired or deceased, you may receive benefits for the child until he or she reaches age 16. If you have a disabled child, the age limit does not apply.
You do not have to meet the minimum requirement of 10 years of marriage for your child to receive benefits. "The benefit amounts are a little different, depending on the age of the ex-spouse (the one applying for mother's/father's benefits) and whether or not the worker is alive or deceased," says Webb. "This can get awfully complicated, so we advise talking to us directly."
Does it matter if I remarry?
If you were married to a higher-earning spouse for decades and then had a brief marriage to someone else, one consolation is that at least you haven't permanently lost your Social Security benefits from the first marriage.
You cannot take benefits on an ex-spouse's record while you are married to someone else. But if you remarry and then you divorce again, after two years you are eligible to apply for benefits from the prior spouse again.
Betty Perrin (not her real name) had more than one ex and was able to maximize her benefits. Her second husband, Tom, passed away while she was married to her third husband, Walter. Even though Walter made a higher income, much of it was not subject to Social Security taxes. Betty received a higher benefit under Tom's record, which illustrates how important it is to check out all the alternatives before you decide whose benefit record to use.
What if my ex has several ex-wives?
If your former spouse has several exes, the question becomes: How many exes can claim benefits on one person's record?
The answer: As many ex-spouses as qualify can all take benefits based on the same person's contribution record. A person could have four or five ex-spouses -- from marriages that each lasted 10 years or longer -- and all of the ex-spouses could take benefits.
The other ex-wives of Betty's former husbands were not affected by her decision about whose record to choose for claiming Social Security benefits. In fact, one of her ex's other ex-wives encouraged Betty to go back to the Social Security office to see if she could get higher benefits.
What if my ex hasn't started taking benefits yet?
It doesn't matter if your ex hasn't started taking benefits yet, according to the Social Security website. You can collect Social Security benefits even if your ex hasn't started, as long as you have been divorced at least two years.
Charlene Thompson, of Austin, Texas (not her real name), found that it wasn't easy to get her local Social Security office to recognize this. She went back to the office three times, asking if she could start taking early benefits at age 62 on the basis of her ex's contributions. They had been married 34 years. Each time, they said no. Charlene's benefits based on her own contributions were far lower.
Fortunately, a woman working for a senior advocacy group encouraged Charlene to try again. This time, she talked to someone at the Social Security office who said, "Absolutely!" and sent her the proper forms.
Will my ex know about my benefits?
A higher-earning spouse may resent his ex getting any of "their money" or think it affects how much he will receive in benefits. It doesn't. Or the spouse who is entitled to benefits based on her ex's earnings may not want so-and-so to know she is taking benefits based on his record.
There's good news if you'd rather your ex not know about your benefits. An ex-spouse is not affected by the benefits you receive and is not notified. However, if your ex is really curious, he can find out who is taking benefits based on his record. Webb says, "We would have to let them know if they asked us. An individual is entitled by law to know the names and benefit amounts of anyone receiving benefits off of his or her record. They are not entitled to mailing address or other identifying information, however."
Webb says not even a divorce decree can take away your Social Security benefits based on your ex's contributions. "Social Security is a federal program," he says. "No divorce decree can trump Social Security."
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I am the only caucasian at a christian? store. My co-workers often brag that they get social security for there child(ren) because they have ADD, or ADHD, or just because they have asthma. However they can still participate in sports programs. they still get state medical, food stamps and welfare. And they claim they are being discriminated against.
Over the past 25 years, five presidents, and the members of Congress, have participated in the great Social Security scam. All Social Security contributions made by working Americans, except the amount which was needed to pay current retirement benefits, has been funneled into the general fund and used for non-Social Security purposes. Some like to say that the government just “borrowed” the money during the time period when it was not needed to pay benefits.
But borrowing implies repayment, and no provisions for repayment have been made. The government did not enact future tax increases that would automatically kick in when the Social Security money was needed. Neither did they enact legislation that would end other spending programs once the Social Security money was needed so the money could be transferred to the trust fund. The government spent the Social Security money, pure and simple, without making any provisions for future repayments. The IOUs in the trust fund are not marketable, and they could not be sold to anyone even for a penny on the dollar. The Social Security trustees confirmed the worthlessness of the IOUs in the 2009 Social Security Trustees Report with the following words:
Neither the redemption of trust fund bonds, nor interest paid on those bonds, provides any new net income to the Treasury, which must finance redemptions and interest payments through some combination of increased taxation, reductions in other government spending, or additional borrowing from the public.
In order for Social Security to pay full benefits after 2016, it will be necessary for the government to begin repaying the money it has spent on other things. This will mean increased taxes and/or additional borrowing. Neither of these is politically popular, and there is no assurance that future politicians will be willing to raise taxes to pay for the irresponsible behavior of past politicians. If the money is not repaid in full, with interest, it will have been stolen by the government from working Americans who paid into the fund.
Since Social Security would be fully funded until at least 2037 if the government had not used the money for other things, the only reason that politicians are advocating cuts in Social Security benefits is the fact that the government does not have the money with which to pay its debt to Social Security. Given the fact that Section 13301 of the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 made it a violation of federal law to use Social Security revenue for non-Social Security purposes, it is hard to justify using the word “borrow” to refer to any of the Social Security money spent after 1990, even if it is eventually paid back.
I agree with those that say - you worked and payed you get it, if not you don't. I have a relative that is collecting the same as me off her husbands SS and she never worked a day in her life, and I've paid and worked since I was 16. Also have a friend that got married late in life, is now collecting for himself and his 16 year old son - so we are basically paying people to have childeren late in life. PLUS he works for cash and collects for the 2 of them. No wonder SS is in the hole. They are paying everyone that is not contributing a dime.
The people at the SS office, even after working there decades, don't have a clue about answering any question that is the least bit out of the ordinary. I seemed to know more from reading things than them when I went in. Typical government worker BS.
I have worked as a CNA, taking care of the elderly for seventeen yrs, when I became a volunteer with fire and rescue. During the time I was training and increasing me skill level
I stayed working, keep up the home, and mother/wife duties. After I became a paramedic, I still volunteered for several squads, but started working part-time for paid service. I eventually
became a full time employee, still volunteering during off hours..due to health problems had to leave EMS, but went to work for an urgent care...I could make you scream, pull your hair out, at who all are given SSD, and medicare...and what some of us have to do when its obvious, if you can't walk across the room without turning blue..I had to depleat my savings, even when they knew in dec I had been approved, that woman never told me. I went to social services, to get some help with medicial. They told me that they couldn't help me unless I was to be approved by SSD. But I found out that illegals in that come into this country, can get help for food, and if they have children, can get medicaid for both parent and child. Those on green cards, get medicaid, food stamps and after 10 yrs working here, can bring over extended family members. Mrs. V has seven children on medicaid, food stamps, and went and got her father, and put him on social security and medicaid, before they even got back thru the state.
Ms.V and her husband work average jobs, lawn care and cleaning...but buy and sell goods at the flea market during the weekends, and do not report that income. How many do you think are sinking our states doing this..NC pays over 85 billion dollars a year.
Interesting post and unfortunately true. The beauty of the money collection (tax) system in this country is there is no accountability for where the money goes. However, no audit is necessary because it goes into corporate and individual pockets, directly or indirectly. Is it any wonder politicians are willing to spend outrageous amounts of money to be elected? They get it back in spades if elected as all political jobs have two things in common. A base salary for the office held, plus all you can steal.
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