Does A Second Wife Get Social Security From Her Husband?

When it comes to Social Security benefits after the primary beneficiary their spouse is the most likely to receive benefits based on their income tax contributions. The majority of older married individuals are aware that they may qualify for spousal benefits based on their spouse's work history.

The thing that causes confusion however is what exactly happens if the event of a divorce and the primary beneficiary remarrying. Do the new spouse and the ex both qualify for Social Security benefits based on the primary beneficiary’s work history?

In this post we will take a look at the logistics of this issue and determine who is eligible for Social Security benefits.

Does a Second Wife Get Social Security From Her Husband?

So the first marriage didn’t work out and ended in divorce. The primary Social Security beneficiary has remarried and now has a second wife. His ex has not remarried and as they were married more than 10 years she is eligible for spousal benefits based on his work history. Does this mean his new wife is not eligible?

The answer is no it does not mean the new wife is not eligible. The fact is as the current wife of the primary beneficiary she would be eligible for retirement benefits based on her husband's work history. This is even the case if the ex-wife is already claiming spousal benefits based on her former husband's work record.

There are a few requirements however for the new wife to qualify for spousal benefits. Firstly she must have been married to her husband for at least a full year. The second wife must also be at least 62 years of age to claim the spousal benefits. The only exception to this rule being if the second wife is caring for a minor child under 16 or who has a disability.

Based on Social Security Administration rules these benefit rules apply to the current spouse no matter if the husband has one or more former spouses. If all of the ex-wives meet the eligibility guidelines they would be able to claim spousal benefits from their former husbands work history. This would not affect the current wife’s eligibility.

The present wife does not require her own work history and can claim benefits as long as her spouse is already receiving his, they have been married over 12 months and she meets the age requirements as mentioned earlier.

Spousal benefits are typically around 50% of what the primary beneficiary receives. If these benefits are started before full retirement age then they will not be reduced. In the event that the primary beneficiary passes away the surviving spouse would then switch to survivor benefits instead. These survivor benefits would 100% of what the primary beneficiary was receiving for their benefit payments.

Does a Second Marriage Affect Social Security Benefits?

There are a number of ways that a second marriage can affect Social Security benefits but these depend on which spouse is remarrying. If for example the primary beneficiary remarries his new spouse after a year would be able if they had reached 62 and you were already claiming Social Security would be eligible for spousal benefits.

The amount of these spousal benefits would be dependent on the work history of the primary beneficiary. Benefits would not be decreased if a former spouse was also receiving benefits based on your husband's work history. Both the current and former wife would get 50% of the amount being claimed by the primary beneficiary as they would if there had only been one spouse.

If an ex-wife is claiming spousal benefits but herself remarries then the Social Security Administration may stop those benefits. After a year she would be eligible to claim against the work history of her new spouse.

In terms of survivor benefits the surviving spouse is eligible for those benefits until death or until they remarry. The exception being that if the surviving spouse marries after the age of 60 they still receive the survivor benefits. If the widow remarries under 60 then she loses the survivor benefits going forward.

Divorced Spouse and Social Security Eligibility

As mentioned, ex-spouses can qualify for spousal benefits based on their former spouses work history. There are some specific rules however that have been set forth by the Social Security Administration. The marriage must have lasted at least 10 full years. As with current spouses the ex-spouse must also be at least 62 years of age to apply.

It is also important that the former spouse has not remarried while the primary beneficiary is still alive. When this happens the Social Security Administration will stop the spousal benefits and the person will have to wait a year before they are eligible for benefits based on their new spouses work history.

The most important requirement of course when it comes to claiming spousal benefits is that the former spouse is actually eligible for Social Security. If the former spouse did not have enough Social Security credits from their work history they may not be eligible for a pension. As such if they can not claim a pension then their former spouse can not claim spousal benefits based on them.

Some people may qualify for spousal benefits from two different former spouses. Two marriages lasting over 10 years could give this eligibility but can you claim both? Financially it would be great if you could but you only get one spousal benefit.

In the case of people with two former spouses who are primary beneficiaries they would receive the highest of the available spousal benefits. There is no double dipping when it comes to spousal benefits.

If you are eligible for a pension based on your own work history and this is higher than the spousal benefit you will have to claim your own pension and would not claim a spousal benefit.

Maximizing Spousal Benefits

Generally speaking we make less money during our retirement years so making those benefits stretch further is very important. There are a few strategies that can help you achieve this. There is or I should say was a handy loophole that closed in 2016.

This loophole can still be used if you were born before January 2nd 1954. Essentially when the primary beneficiary reaches the age of 62 which in the case of someone born in 1954 would 2016 they apply for their Social Security.

Their spouse prior to 2016 could apply for spousal benefits but not actually take their own pension. This allows them to keep accruing Social Security credits until they turn 70 years old. This is when full retirement age is reached and the pension payout is maximized. They would then apply for their full pension which would be the most possible.

Sadly this is not a loophole that can be initiated now as it was closed in 2016. If however the primary beneficiary applied for their Social Security prior to 2016 and you applied for spousal benefits but not a full pension at the same time then some time this year or next year your own pension will be maximized.

These days when you apply for spousal benefits you also apply for your own pension based on your personal work history. You will receive whichever benefit is the highest but can not receive both.

In order to increase your monthly Social Security checks it is advised if you are able to continue working until full retirement age at 70. This will allow you accrue more credits and get the highest pension based on your work history.

Signing up for a My Social Security account with the Social Security Administration will allow you to view your account history. Using this you can get an estimate of your expected retirement benefits. It is also helpful if you want to monitor your Social Security number for fraud.

Applying for Spousal Benefits from an Ex-Spouse

When you are eligible for spousal benefits from an ex-spouse you will need to apply officially. This may require you knowing their Social Security number. You can still apply however if you know their full name, date of birth, place of birth and their parents information.

You may need proof you were married and occasionally may have to produce the divorce decree. You will of course need your own Social Security number. The process can be done online as SSA.gov, over the phone or in person at a Social Security office.

Conclusion

Depending on certain requirements such as length of marriage, current age and if the primary beneficiary is claiming Social Security then a second wife can claim spousal benefits. This is not affected by former spouses of the primary beneficiary who themselves may also be eligible for spousal benefits.

A second wife qualifies for spousal benefits if they have been married for over a year and she is either over 62 years old or caring for a child under 16 or with disabilities. However, the primary beneficiary must have already started his Social Security benefits before she applies.

Reference SSA Locator

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