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Myths about Social Security spousal claims

| Oct 14, 2020 | Blog, Family Law |

Social Security benefits exist to help ensure some measure of financial support during retirement years in Texas or elsewhere in the country. If you were the primary breadwinner in two or more marriages, you might have more than one spouse collecting Social Security benefits based on your lifetime earnings. That does not mean you get less. It just means they earned the right to use your lifetime earnings calculations to obtain a Social Security benefit in accordance with federal family law.

How a spouse earns Social Security support

When a marriage lasts for at least 10 years and ends in divorce, federal family law says the spouse who earned the least of the two can file for Social Security benefits based on the other spouse’s lifetime earnings. The spouse who earned the benefits must be at least age 62 or otherwise drawing Social Security benefits, including disability benefits. The former spouse also must be at least 62 years of age in order to file for benefits based on a former spouse’s earnings.

No limits on the number of former spouses

If you have more than one former marriage that lasted at least 10 years, you have more than one former spouse who could use your lifetime earnings to obtain a Social Security benefit. Former TV talk show host Johnny Carson had three ex-wives who qualified for Social Security benefits based on his substantial lifetime earnings. A fourth ex-wife was not married long enough to qualify for the benefit.

Subsequent marriage nullifies claim

When a former spouse remarries, that spouse no longer is eligible to claim benefits based on a previous marriage. The comparative earnings of the new spouse would be the qualifying amount and not the former spouse. A Houston-area attorney experienced in family law may help you to better understand how Social Security benefits for ex-spouses work.