By Marc Kiner, CPA

We emphasize Situational Social Security in the National Social Security Advisor (NSSA®) Certificate program, as all your clients are unique. Your clients may be single, married with wide age differences, married with narrow age differences, divorced, surviving spouses, eligible to file a Restricted Application, public employees, etc. Advisors (you), must understand the issues and questions that relate to every unique client. You are your clients' trusted advisor and must understand Social Security.

My partner, Jim Blair, worked for the Social Security Administration for 35 years and retired in January 2010. Jim and I began our journey together at that time to help folks to understand and maximize their Social Security benefits. In January 2013, we created the National Social Security Advisor Certificate program. To date, 2,500 advisors across the country have earned the NSSA® certificate.

In this installment of Situational Social Security (SSS), we will discuss Social Security benefits relating to divorced individuals.

First, the rules for you to collect off an ex-spouse:

  1. You must be single
  2. You must be at least age 62
  3. Marriage duration – 10 continuous years
  4. Your spouse must be collecting a retirement or disability benefit if divorced for less than two years

The requirement that your ex-spouse be receiving a benefit does not apply if the following conditions are met as “Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse” status will apply:

  1. You and your ex are at least age 62
  2. You are single
  3. Marriage duration – 10 continuous years
  4. You and your ex have been divorced for at least two years

Restricted Application for Ex-Spouse 

Tom met with Jim Blair in November. Tom was married to Alice for 25 years, and they have been divorced for five years. Additionally, Tom was born January 25, 1952. Tom told Jim that Alice filed a Restricted Application and is collecting a spousal benefit off his work record. Tom asked Jim if he can also file a Restricted Application. 

Tom is eligible to file a Restricted Application as he was born by the “magic” date of January 1, 1954, and the requirements stated above have been met.

Filing a Restricted Application will allow Tom to receive a spousal benefit while his own retirement benefit earns Delayed Retirement Credits. This is a very powerful strategy.

Do you want to supercharge this strategy? Tom is also eligible to file the Restricted Application effective six months ago (May), receiving a lump sum check for six months of retroactive spousal benefits. Wow! Tom better file the Restricted Application by the end of November 30 or risk losing a month of spousal benefits. 

Impact of Marriage

One of the requirements to collect off an ex-spouse is that the ex-spouse seeking to collect must be single. Mary came in a couple of months ago. Mary has been receiving Social Security off her ex-husband, Sid, for several years. She plans on marrying Bob in March of 2021. Mary is concerned that her Social Security benefits from Sid will be impacted if she marries Bob. Her friend, Harold, told Mary that her benefit will continue. Mary is not sure of Harold’s advice! 

Mary is correct as she must be single to collect a spousal SS benefit off Sid. Harold is wrong again! Upon marrying Bob, Mary’s benefits off Sid will terminate. However, Mary is eligible to collect a spousal benefit off her new husband, Bob, if he is receiving a retirement or disability benefit. Generally, Mary would have to wait until she has been married to Bob for a year. This requirement does not apply if Bob is collecting a Social Security benefit upon marriage.

Amount of Benefit off Ex-Spouse 

Without going into detail about how spousal benefits (married or divorced) are calculated, a spousal benefit is equal to 50 percent of the other spouse’s Full Retirement Age benefit, or Primary Insurance Amount (PIA).

For example, if my PIA is $2,000, then my ex-spouse is eligible for $1,000 at her Full Retirement Age. If she retires early, the spousal benefit will be reduced for age. Spousal benefits do not increase after Full Retirement Age. 

For additional information about the National Social Security Advisor Certificate program, please visit www.premiernssa.com or contact me at 513.218.8505 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Marc Kiner, CPA is the president and part owner of Premier Social Security Consulting. He and his partner, Jim Blair, presented the webinar “Social Security From A – Z: Situational Social Security” on January 26.