Spousal benefits for the Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse (IEDS) are the benefits to which an individual may be entitled based on his or her ex-spouse’s record while that ex-spouse is still living when the ex-spouse is entitled to his or her own benefit but has not yet filed for them.
Being entitled to spousal benefits as an Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse will be based on meeting criteria relating to the applicant’s age, marital status, duration of the marriage, and comparison of Primary Insurance Amounts (PIAs). PIA is defined as an individual’s monthly Retirement Income Benefit if he or she elects to receive benefits at his or her Full Retirement Age (FRA).
The criteria for an individual to receive spousal benefits as an IEDS includes:
Once the above criteria are met, the next step in determining whether an individual will qualify for a spousal benefit depends on whether or not that individual’s PIA is less than 50% of the PIA of the spouse or ex-spouse. If that is the case, then the “base spousal benefit” received will be the value to get the individual to the one-half value of the spouse’s PIA.
Example of Spousal Benefit for the applicant as an IEDS:
It is November 1, 2019. Janet and Bob were married for 37 years and divorced on April 15, 2018. They are each 65 years old and have remained unmarried. Janet will reach her Full Retirement Age of 66 in May 2020 but is considering taking her Social Security benefit early in January 2020. Bob has continued to work full time and has yet to claim his own benefit. He plans to do so at age 70. Janet’s PIA is $1,100, and Bob’s is $2,700. First, to know if Janet can get a spousal benefit, we take one-half of Bob’s PIA and get $1,350. We then subtract Janet’s PIA of $1,100 from $1,350. We find that Janet would be entitled to a full spousal benefit of $250 if she claims benefits at FRA. Janet learns from a Certified Social Security Claiming Strategist that if she claims benefits earlier than May 2020, since the two-year waiting period for an IEDS from the date of divorce will not have elapsed, she will only receive a benefit based upon her own earnings record and that benefit will be reduced. If she claims for January 2020, she won’t be eligible for the full spousal benefit of $250 until May 2020, the month that marks the end of the two-year waiting period for her, as an IEDS applicant. Furthermore, this spousal benefit will not automatically be paid beginning in May. Janet will be required to show the SSA evidence of marriage and divorce from Bob and apply for the spousal benefit. She decides that she will file for benefits to begin at her FRA. This will help her avoid a reduction of the retirement income benefit based on her own earnings record, assure her that she will receive the extra spousal benefit of $250 upon filing, and will help her avoid needing to apply twice for benefits. She will file for May 2020 and expects to receive her first monthly benefit amount of $1,350 in June 2020.
It is important to note that pre-FRA filing for benefits as an Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse, will reduce the spousal benefit awarded, similar to reductions under normal spousal benefit scenarios.
Divorce can certainly bring financial challenges. Understanding spousal benefits as an Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse may help you find clarity to know if and when you should make the benefit decision. Find a Certified Social Security Claiming Strategist to help you understand if you are eligible for spousal benefits and what the most optimal claiming moment is for you. Check out our other post: Social Security and Spousal Benefits: What You Need to Know
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So, What is a Certified Social Security Claiming Strategist (or CSSCS)? Certified Social Security Claiming Strategists are individuals who have completed a training course and have gained the proper knowledge to assist you in the area of Social Security claiming.