It is common in our law practice to visit with individuals contemplating a second marriage. Often one of the parties will have a higher Social Security earnings record from a spouse from an earlier marriage. The questions is, if you remarry, how will your earnings record and Social Security benefits be determined?
Generally, if you remarry prior to age 60, you are not eligible for benefits based upon your former spouse’s earning record. However, if you divorce after 10 years of marriage, and your second marriage ends before you turn 60, your benefits based upon your first spouse’s earnings record will be restored. Further, when you reach age 62, you can choose to collect a “spousal benefit” based upon your new spouse’s earnings record or receive a benefit based upon your own earnings, whichever is the larger amount.
Remarry after age 60, and you will be eligible to receive a spousal benefit based on the earnings record of a deceased spouse, the spousal benefit of your current spouse, or a benefit based upon your own work record, whichever is highest.
What happens if your new spouse dies? You will be eligible for a spousal benefit if you are at least 60 years of age (or age 50 if disabled) as long as the marriage lasted at least 9 months, or your spouse had an accidental death, or you had a child (including adoption) together. You must be unmarried at the time of your application.
Social Security has an excellent website that is well organized. Answers to most of your Social Security questions can usually be found within just a few minutes. For more information, go to http://www.ssa.gov/.
- Attorney James M. O'Reilly