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December 10, 2014 | by Chris Stein, CFP®, Finance Instructor at Colorado State University
Social Security Benefits and Remarriage

When you're done reading, be sure to listen to our audio blog below!

In the past we have discussed Spousal Benefits for currently married couples as well as divorced spouses.  Today I would like to cover what happens with Social Security benefits and remarriage.  As a spouse, or even a former spouse, there are two main benefits for which you may be eligible:

  1.  Spousal Benefits – If currently married you are eligible for up to 50% of your spouse’s Primary Insurance Amount as long as you have been married at least one year,  are at least age 62 and your spouse has filed for their own benefit.  As we have discussed in previous posts, you also qualify for Spousal Benefits if divorced as long as you were married at least 10 years, are at least age 62 and your ex-spouse has filed for their own benefit.  Also, if you have been divorced for at least 2 years your ex-spouse only has to be eligible to file and need not have actually filed for their own benefit.
  2.  Survivor Benefits – If you become widowed, you are eligible for up to 100% of what your spouse was collecting at their death, or what they would have been eligible to receive had they been collecting as long as you were married at least 9 months prior to your spouse’s passing.  The 9 month restriction is actually lifted in cases of accidental death or death occurring while serving in the armed forces.  This benefit can be claimed as early as age 60, but at a reduced amount if filing prior to your own full retirement age.

Benefits and Remarriage

So what happens to these benefits if you remarry? In general, remarriage disconnects you from your previous spouse’s benefits but there are some exceptions:

  1.  If you remarry someone who is themselves collecting a benefit on someone else’s record you can remain “attached” to your ex-spouses benefit record.
  2. If you remarry AFTER your age 60 you can retain any Survivor Benefits you may be receiving from your previous spouse.  You could certainly switch to the Spousal Benefit of your new spouse after a year of marriage, but the chances that 50% of your new spouse’s PIA is larger than 100% of your previous spouse’s benefit is small so that is rarely a good idea.  Remember though, this only applies to Survivor Benefits.  You will lose the ability to collect Spousal Benefits from your previous spouse’s record if you remarry at any age.
  3. One additional detail… If your subsequent marriage ends you will regain the ability to file for Spousal Benefits you were eligible for from your previous spouse.  You effectively regain the ability to attach your cart to the previous horse.

This topic, like most things with Social Security, can be confusing.  Please reach out to us if you have further questions!

And be sure to use the  play button below to listen to our audio post.

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