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Divorcee Social Security Planning

divorcedIf you’re planning to retire and you’re a divorcee, you may be entitled to additional retirement benefits based on your ex’s earnings record.

This can be quite a boon for an individual whose ex-spouse has had a significant earnings record over his or her lifetime. Especially so, if your own benefit is lower because you didn’t work outside the home for a significant number of years.

You may be eligible for this additional benefit if you are at least age 62, your marriage lasted for at least ten years, and your ex-spouse is at least 62 years of age (and therefore eligible for Social Security benefits). If your ex hasn’t filed for his or her own Social Security benefit, the last factor is that your divorce must have been final for at least two years. If your ex has filed for benefits, this time limit is eliminated.

How Can You Plan?

So you’ve determined that as a divorcee you’re eligible for a Spousal Benefit based on your ex’s record. How can you plan? How can you determine what amount of Spousal Benefit you may have available?

Of course, a quick and easy way to know how much your Spousal Benefit might be is to ask your ex-spouse. He or she should know (or should be able to find out readily) the amount of Social Security benefits that he or she will have coming upon retirement.

But it’s often not so easy – naturally a product of divorce is a cut-off of communications, by either or both parties. Even if communicating is possible, it may be far from the desirable choice. The good news is that you don’t *have* to do it that way. You can just go to the Social Security Administration office near you to find out.

But wait a minute – you’d at least hope that the SSA folks wouldn’t just hand out personal information to just anyone who darkens their threshold, right? I mean, you can’t just walk in and ask for Social Security benefit information for another person’s record without proving that you *should* have access to this information.

Of course, there is a certain amount of information that the Social Security Administration staff will not give you – your ex’s Social Security number and address, for example. But if you prove your relationship to the ex – that is, if you can show evidence that you were married for the applicable 10 years or more, and that you are divorced – you can get some information for planning purposes.

This evidence is in the form of a marriage license and a divorce decree. Both items must be official records. In addition, if you don’t have your ex’s Social Security number, you will have to provide enough identifying information to ensure that the records requested are the appropriate ones. This identifying information includes full name, including maiden name if applicable, date of birth, place of birth, known addresses, parents’ names and addresses, and possibly other information to correctly identify your ex.

Once the record has been identified and your relationship the the individual is established, SSA may give you access to your ex’s:

  • Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) – for use in determining what your future Spousal and Survivor Benefits might be;
  • Earnings Record – for use if you believe that the PIA may be incorrect due to incorrect information in the earnings record, to pursue review of earnings record discrepancies.

Generally with the information specified above these inquiries can be made over the telephone, although in certain situations a request must be made in person.

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