SSI benefit depends on several things

Published 2:21 am Saturday, February 22, 2020

Dear Lawyer Mark: I got divorced a few years ago, and have a question about Social Security. We were married for over 20 years when we got divorced. I didn’t ever work until afterwards, and I’ve just worked minimum wage jobs since then. My lawyer back then said that I could get Social Security because of my ex, unless I got remarried. Well now, I was looking at trying to get it, but have met someone and also want to get married. I really need the Social Security though. Can I do both? — Fretting in Fayette

Dear Fretting:

The answer to your question depends upon the specific facts of your circumstances. Individuals who are applying are treated differently depending upon their marital status, age, employment and whether or not their former spouse is still alive.

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In general, spouses or ex-spouses filing for Social Security can receive a benefit based upon their own retirement or a percentage of what their spouse or ex-spouse is entitled to, whichever is larger. If you are divorced, and your ex-spouse is still living, you can receive benefits based upon the ex’s benefits if you were married at least 10 years, you are at least 62 years old, your ex has reached retirement age or is on disability, and you are currently unmarried. If you applied and received benefits, and then remarried, those benefits would then typically be terminated after you remarry, although there are a few limited exceptions to the rule.

If you are divorced, and your ex-spouse is deceased, the criteria to receive benefits is different. In that instance, you are eligible to receive benefits if you were married at least ten years, and you are at least 60 years old. If you remarry at age 60 or older, the remarriage does not affect your receiving benefits. If you remarry prior to age 60, you cannot receive the benefits until your current marriage is terminated by death or divorce.

In case you were wondering, the benefit you would receive does not lower the amount your ex-spouse receives. This is a common misconception, as it is often said that an ex-spouse is “entitled to 50 percent of a spouse’s benefit.” Actually, an ex-spouse is entitled to a separate benefit that is equal to 50 percent of the worker’s benefits. If that worker is deceased, then the percentage is actually higher, equal to between 70.1 and 100 percent of what the worker’s benefit would have been.

And, as is always the case, Social Security will only pay you one benefit, so if you were married another ten years and got divorced, you could only get the highest benefit allowed, not one for each ex-spouse.

Thought for the Week: “You can never have the comeback if you don’t have the retirement.” — Chael Sonnen

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved