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Background

In the United States, Spouse 1 can access social security benefits accumulated by Spouse 2 as long as the marriage has lasted at least 10 years. These social security benefits are not available to Spouse 1 until Spouse 1 reaches at least age 62. If Spouse 1 is more than 62 years old but less than 67 years old and submits a claim for social security benefits of Spouse 2’s accumulated social security benefits, the government will provide Spouse 1 up to 32.5% of the accumulated benefits to date. 

You might be able to receive a higher % if the request is made after age 67

If Spouse 1 waits to file the claim for benefits until Spouse 1 reaches age 67 the situation changes. If Spouse 1 is deemed eligible to receive the benefits, the government will increase the rate from 32.5% to 50% of Spouse 2’s accumulated benefits.

Double dipping is not allowed

It is important to note, there is no double dipping per se. This means Spouse 1 cannot submit a claim for benefits to Spouse 2’s accumulated social security benefits and also submit a claim for Spouse 1’s accumulated benefits. In other words, the government will not pay Spouse 1 social security benefits from Spouse 1’s earnings while simultaneously paying Spouse 1 for a percentage of Spouse 2’s accumulated social security benefits. 

As a result, if Spouse 1 decides to file a claim for benefits, Spouse 1 must make a decision to either submit a claim based on Spouse 1’s earnings history or Spouse 2’s earnings history with the understanding of the threshold limitations outlined above.

A marital asset should be recorded on the marital estate

So, how should future social security benefits be handled on a marital estate for purposes of a divorce proceeding? As part of the divorce process, each party should contact the social security administration (SSA) to quantify how much the future benefits will amount to at age 62 and at age 67. To receive this information you have to fill out the required SSA form. You will receive what is known as a statement of benefits. The statement of benefits is typically calculated based on the eligible participant reaching age 67 years old, not 62 years old.

Once the annual benefit amount is determined, the net present value of the future benefits that will be received over each spouse’s lifetime from the date of the claim should be recorded as an asset on the marital estate. This asset needs to be properly allocated between the spouses with certain conditions delineated in the divorce decree. These conditions will outline whether either spouse will have the right to access the other spouse’s benefits noted above.

It is worthy to note if Spouse 1 submits a request for benefits based on Spouse 2’s social security benefits, the request for benefits does not negatively impact Spouse 2’s access to the social security benefits.

If you decide to file a claim with the SSA at a future point in time…

To demonstrate eligibility, the social security administration will request you provide:

  • A birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • A copy of the original marriage certificate
  • Proof of citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year
  • Final divorce decree, if applying as a divorced spouse

The social security administration may also ask you:

  • Your name, gender and Social Security number
  • Your name at birth (if different)
  • Your date of birth and place of birth (State or foreign country)
  • Whether a public or religious record was made of your birth before age 5
  • Your citizenship status
  • Whether you or anyone else has ever filed for social security benefits, medicare or supplemental security income on your behalf (if so, they will also ask for information on whose Social Security record you applied)
  • Whether you have used any other social security number
  • Whether you became unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time within the past 14 months. If “Yes,” they will also ask the date you became unable to work
  • Whether you were ever in the active military service before 1968 and, if so, the dates of service and whether you have ever been eligible to receive a monthly benefit from a military or Federal civilian agency
  • Whether you or your spouse have ever worked for the railroad industry
  • Whether you have earned Social Security credits under another country’s social security system
  • Whether you qualified for or expect to receive a pension or annuity based on your own employment with the Federal government of the United States or one of its States or local subdivisions
  • Whether you are currently married and, if so, your spouse’s name, date of birth (or age) and Social Security number (if known).
  • The names, dates of birth (or age) and Social Security numbers (if known) of any former spouses
  • The dates and places of each of your marriages and, for marriages that have ended, how and when they ended
  • The names of any unmarried children under 18, 18-19 and in secondary school or disabled before age 22
  • The name(s) of your employer(s) and/or information about your self-employment and the amount of your earnings for this year, last year and next year
  • Whether they may contact your employers for wage information
  • The month you want your benefits to begin
  • If you are within 3 months of age 65, whether you want to enroll in Medical Insurance (Part B of Medicare).

It would be wise to have your bank account number available to enable the SSA to directly deposit future social security benefits into your bank account.

You can apply:

  • Online, if you are within 3 months of age 62 or older, or
  • By calling the national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visiting your local Social Security office. You do not need an appointment, If you call ahead and schedule an appointment, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to apply.

About the Author

Larry Smith is a Founding Partner of Divorce Outcomes, a specialized professional services firm that manages all of the financial aspects in a divorce process. Since 2003 he has worked as a trusted financial advisor, financial advocate, divorce architect and technical financial expert; he is not an attorney. He is an alumni of KPMG and Andersen with expertise in technical accounting, forensics, sophisticated taxation, management consulting, risk management, advanced process engineering, business combinations, divorce management, multi-party negotiations, advanced quality analytics and cognitive performance technologies. Since 1986 Larry has been advising individuals and organizations about innovative financial solutions to resolve complex financial challenges that arise in life and in business.

For both personal and business divorces, Larry is considered an expert in divorce strategies, divorce process management, financial divorce architecture, financial risk management, taxation for divorces, financial divorce forensics, advanced divorce analytics, financial divorce negotiations and mediation, business valuations and sophisticated equity structures. He helps clients shape complex financial decisions, manage communication risks and ever-changing negotiating positions to strategically preserve or grow wealth from these types of transactions.

If You Have a Question

If you have a question, feel free to contact me at [email protected] or 617-680-5222. The call is free. I will spend 30–60 minutes with you. I will provide you an honest assessment as to where I think you are positioned in your divorce process or answer any questions you have. I may provide you some guidance, insight or advice that you can take with you as you wish. There is no obligation to move forward. The phone call is designed to ease your fears, provide you some options to pursue and a potential road to run on that can lead you down a path to achieve a successful outcome.

About Divorce Outcomes

Divorce Outcomes is a specialty services firm that helps people both domestically and internationally manage all of the financial decisions that arise in their divorce process. We are not attorneys. We are financial experts who partner with our clients as their personal financial advocates. We help our clients manage their divorce process, uncover hidden financial risks, architect divorce solutions, manage ever-changing negotiating positions, communicate complex financial matters and close the divorce process as soon as possible with a goal to arrive at the best outcomes possible. Throughout the process we evaluate the current state of our clients’ financial lives with an objective to best reposition their future. We do not sell any products. We simply raise issues that are in our clients best interest. Our clients share with us we:

  • unfold, analyze and repackage their financial life so they are well positioned after their divorce
  • preserve the value of their business or marital estate
  • continuously strive to provide a return on our services
  • build balanced financial solutions grounded in evidence
  • find ways to make our client, and at times both parties, money through the process
  • design their divorce to work for them and their family’s life
  • provide mental clarity to make decisions
  • reduce the total process time from start to close
  • minimize the stress and unpleasant memories that can last a lifetime

As we reach an agreed upon settlement structure, we help our clients identify a fitting attorney who can leverage the financial solution to draft and record the requisite legal documents. Where outcomes are at risk from a traditional process, we function as expert financial negotiators or financial mediators to turn around the situation and achieve our client’s desired outcomes.

Learn more about us at divorceoutcomes.com or review our blogs to gain a clearer understanding about our approach and how we maximize the financial outcomes for our clients.

Disclaimer

This communication is for general informational purposes only which may or may not reflect the most current developments. It is not intended to constitute formal advice or a recommended course of action as every person’s situation is unique and different. The information here is not intended to be, and should not be, relied upon by the recipient to make a decision without professional guidance.

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