07 Jan Do I have to share my husband’s Social Security with his ex?
Q. My husband was married before. When I get some of his Social Security, do I have to share it with her?
— Hoping not
A. The short answer is no, you don’t.
Here’s how it works.
Your spousal benefits and any spousal benefits that your husband’s former wife may be entitled to based on his earnings record are two separate pots of money and are completely independent of each other, said Gene McGovern, a certified financial planner with McGovern Financial Advisors in Westfield.
Let’s start at the beginning.
If you’re a current spouse, and you’ve been legally married for one year, you may be eligible for spousal benefits that are based on your husband’s or wife’s work record rather than your own, even if you’ve never worked, he said.
McGovern said eligibility for current spouses generally begins at age 62. However, you can collect spousal benefits at any age so long as you’re caring for a child of the worker who’s under age 16 or disabled and the child is receiving Social Security benefits on the worker’s record.
No spousal benefits are payable, though, unless and until the other spouse has filed for his or her own retirement or disability benefits, he said.
“The maximum spousal benefit is equal to 50% of the other spouse’s full retirement age benefit, which is known as their primary insurance amount (PIA),” he said. “If your own PIA is less than your spousal benefit, Social Security will pay you the difference, adding it to your retirement benefit.”
He offered this example: If your primary insurance amount at your full retirement age is $800, and your spouse’s PIA is $2,000, you’re eligible for a spousal benefit of up to half of that, or $1,000. Social Security would continue to pay your retirement benefit of $800 and add a spousal benefit of $200, bringing your total to $1,000. Both these benefits are reduced if you file early, he said.
First, you must be age 62 or older. There’s no exception available even if you’re caring for a child of your ex-spouse, he said.
Second, you must have been married to your former spouse for at least 10 years.
Third, with limited exceptions, you must not have remarried, he said.
“Unlike the rule for current spouses, you don’t have to wait for your former spouse to file for their own benefit,” McGovern said. “Provided that you’ve been divorced for at least two years, and your ex-spouse is eligible for benefits and has reached age 62, you can file for spousal benefits on his or her record regardless of whether your ex has filed.”
On the other hand, if your former spouse has already filed for benefits, you don’t have to wait for two years after divorcing. You can file as soon as you reach age 62, he said.
Spousal benefit amounts for divorced spouses are generally the same as those for current spouses, he said.
Now, to return to your question: When Social Security pays benefits to other family members based on one person’s work record, such as spousal, survivor, or child benefits, a so-called Family Maximum Benefit applies. No matter how many people in the family may be eligible for benefits, the total amount is generally capped under a formula to roughly 150 to 188 percent of the worker’s primary insurance amount, McGovern said.
The Family Maximum Benefit does not, however, include former spouses.
“Social Security essentially treats payments to a former spouse as being made to a different family,” he said. “They have no effect on the amount a current spouse receives in spousal benefits or on the Family Maximum Benefit. Thus, you don’t have to share your spousal benefits with your husband’s ex.”
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This story was originally published on Jan. 7, 2022.
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