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  • Writer's pictureChris Stein, CFP®

Overcoming Privacy Concerns With Divorced Spouse Benefits

As our long time blog listeners/ readers know, divorced spouses are entitled to receive benefits on their ex-spouse’s earnings if certain conditions are met. Collecting on your ex-spouse will not reduce his/her benefits, even if your ex has a new spouse collecting on their earnings as well. In fact, the Social Security Administration will not even inform your ex if you begin collecting benefits under their earnings. (Nor will they tell you if your ex begins collecting benefits under your earnings.)

For more information on collecting divorced spouse benefits simply enter the words “divorced spouse” in our search box on this blog. But as a brief review, here are some of the items that must be met before you can claim Social Security benefits on a divorced spouse’s earnings:

  1. The marriage must have lasted at least ten years.

  2. You must be divorced for two years

  3. You cannot remarry at any age.

Optimizing Your Benefit

If you’ve met all the requirements and do qualify for divorced spouse benefits it’s important for you to plan appropriately before claiming your Social Security benefits. If optimized correctly there very well could be a number of claiming options available to you! However, in order to make that determination you will first need to make some projections on the value of your anticipated divorced spouse benefit. All spousal benefits are based on the Primary Insurance Amount ( PIA) of the spouse upon whose earnings the benefit is being based.

In the case of a married couple, determining the spousal benefits of either spouse is fairly straightforward and easy as both spouses openly share their PIA amounts with each other. However, in the case of a divorce it may not be as simple. You could try just asking your ex ─ and for many people that remains a viable and workable option. But as often is the case with divorce, your ex- spouse may not be ready, willing, or even able to share what his or her PIA is. And therein lies the problem. If your ex is not willing to share their PIA, or you do not even feel comfortable asking him/her for their PIA, you will not receive any help from the Social Security Administration. Due to privacy laws the SSA is not allowed to share your ex’s PIA amount with you. And as I previously mentioned, without the PIA it is all but impossible to accurately project your Social Security benefits and optimize your claiming strategies.

Ask the Right Questions

Fortunately, there is an easy work-around to this roadblock, and it all depends on how you ask the Social Security Administration for your ex’s PIA! Rather than calling them and asking them for your divorced spouse’s PIA, you need to word your question a little differently. Call them and ask them the following:

If I wait until my full retirement age, what will my divorced spouse benefit be?

Since your divorced spouse benefit at your Full Retirement Age is exactly one-half of your ex-spouse’s PIA you simply take the answer the Social Security Administration gives you and multiply it by two! The result will be your divorced spouse’s PIA.

Although you did not outright ask them for your divorced spouse’s primary insurance amount, essentially, the Social Security administration just shared it with you. Once you have your ex’s PIA you can easily optimize your Social Security benefits with any of the numerous optimization services in existence today, or you can even work with Chris and me and have us optimize your benefits for you.

For more information on divorced spouse benefits, and how to ask for your ex’s PIA, use the play button below.

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