Senior Living


Health & Spirit

Social Security and You: Split Marriage Adds Up to No Benefits

Tom Margenau on

A: I purposely put your question right behind the last one to clarify a point about this 10-year business.

Again, the law treats each of your marriages separately. And you didn't reach your 10th wedding anniversary in either of them.

In the prior answer, I explained how Social Security rules treat split marriages. To repeat, the law says you can combine the time each one lasted IF your marriage was in existence at some point during a 10-year continuous period. But between 1995 when you got married the first time and 2015 when you got divorced the second time, there was no 10-year continuous length of time that you were married.

Q: I took my Social Security at 62. I get $1,257 per month. I tried to get Social Security from my ex-husband but was denied. They said I get more on my own. But how can that be? He made a six-figure income all his life. I have no idea how much he is getting but it must be the maximum. And certainly half of the maximum Social Security benefit is more than I am getting.

A: You're right that half of the maximum Social Security benefit is more than you are getting on your own account. But here is the deal. You are not due half of your ex-husband's Social Security. Because you took reduced retirement benefits on your own account, that reduction carries over to any spousal benefits you might be due. Instead of half, you are due about one-third of his rate. Let's say he is getting the maximum retirement benefit. That would be about $2,700. One third of that is around $890. Your own $1,257 rate is much more than that. So your claim for divorced wife's benefits was correctly denied.


Q: I took my Social Security at age 70. So I am getting an extra 32 percent added to my Social Security checks. My wife is about to turn 66. Does she get half of my age 70 rate? Or half of my full retirement age rate? And what happens when I die?

A: While you are alive, your wife will be due 50 percent of your age 66 (full retirement age) rate -- less any benefits she might be due on her own account. But after you die, her widow's benefit is based on your augmented age 70 amount. So she will get 100 percent of whatever you were getting at the time of death -- again, less any benefits she might be due on her own record.


If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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