January 21, 2022

Should I Share My Husband’s Social Security With His Ex?

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Q. My husband was previously married. If I get some of his Social Security, should I share it with her?

— Hope not

A. The short answer is no, you don’t.

This is how it works.

Your Marital Benefits and Any spousal alimony what your husband’s ex-wife is entitled to based on his earnings are two separate pots of money and are completely independent of each other, said Gene McGovern, a certified financial planner at McGovern Financial Advisors in Westfield.

Let’s start at the beginning.

If you’re a current husband, and you’ve been legally married for a year, you may qualify for spouse benefits based on your husband’s or wife’s work record rather than your own, even if you’ve never worked, he said.

McGovern said eligibility for current spouses generally begins at age 62. However, you can receive partner benefits at any age, as long as you care for an employee’s child who is under 16 or is disabled and the child receives Social Security benefits on the employee’s record.

However, no spouse benefits are due unless and until the other spouse has applied for his or her own retirement or disability benefits, he said.

“The maximum partner allowance equals 50% of the other spouse’s full retirement age, which is known as their primary insurance amount (PIA),” he said. “If your own PIA is less than your partner’s benefit, Social Security will pay you the difference and add it to your retirement benefit.”

He offered this example: If your primary insurance amount at full retirement age is $800 and your spouse’s PIA is $2,000, you qualify for a partner’s benefit of up to half of that, or $1,000. Social Security would continue to pay your $800 retirement benefit and add a $200 partner benefit, bringing your total to $1,000. Both benefits are reduced if you file early, he said.

If you’re a divorced spouse, the rules for partner benefits are similar, but with a few eligible twists, said McGovern.

First, you must be 62 years of age or older. There is no exception available, even if you are taking care of a child of your ex-husband, he said.

Second, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years.

Third, with limited exceptions, you must not have remarried, he said.

“Unlike the current spouse rule, you don’t have to wait for your ex-spouse to apply for their own benefit,” McGovern said. “Provided that you have been divorced for at least two years and your ex-spouse is eligible for benefits and has reached the age of 62, you can apply for a divorce benefit on his or her file whether or not your ex has applied .”

If, on the other hand, your ex-spouse has already applied for benefits, you do not have to wait two years after the divorce. You can file a return as soon as you are 62 years old, he said.

Amount of partner alimony for divorced spouses are generally the same as those for current spouses, he said.

Now coming back to your question, when Social Security pays benefits to other family members based on a person’s work record, such as partner, survivor, or child benefits, a so-called family maximum benefit applies. No matter how many people in the family qualify for benefits, the total amount is generally capped according to a formula to about 150 to 188 percent of the employee’s primary insurance amount, McGovern said.

However, the maximum family benefit does not include: Former spouses.

“Social Security essentially treats payments to a former spouse as payments to another family,” he said. “They have no influence on the amount that a current spouse receives in partner allowance or on the family maximum benefit. That way you don’t have to share your spousal alimony with your husband’s ex.”

Mail your questions to [email protected].

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com‘s weekly e-newsletter.

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