• Chris Stein, CFP®

10 Year Rule and Divorced Spouse Benefits

We received the following question recently regarding the 10-year rule and divorced spouse benefits:

My Mother is 62 and wants to file for Social Security benefits.  She was mostly a stay at home mom so her own benefit is quite small.  She is divorced, but I know that as long as she was married at least 10 years she is eligible to claim a spousal benefit as if she were married.  But there is a complication.  She was married a total of 15 years to her ex-husband, but with a divorce and re-marriage to the same man along the way.  Their first marriage lasted 8 years, then they were divorced for 3, then remarried and divorced the second time 7 years later.  Does she qualify for divorced spouse benefits?”

10 Year Rule

You are correct that a person must be married for at least 10 years in order to claim a divorced spouse benefit on their ex-spouse’s record.  The other conditions are that they must be at least age 62 and divorced for at least 2 years.  The 2 year wait is waived if the ex-spouse has claimed their own benefit.

Multiple Marriages to the Same Person

Believe it or not, the scenario you describe happens often enough that the SSA has a rule to handle it.  You can count multiple marriages to the same person for purposes of the 10 year rule, but only if the remarriage happens not later than the calendar year following the first divorce.  Unfortunately, in this case the two marriages do not combine for purposes of the 10 year rule and therefore your mother does not qualify for divorced spouse benefits.

For additional information on this topic listen to the audio blog attached to this article, or refer to the Social Security operations manual on this topic at:  https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300202005


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