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Widow Due Benefits After Divorcing Hubby No. 2
Q: I have a widowed friend who remarried when she was 58 years old. But that marriage lasted only 4 months and they were divorced. She's been told that because she remarried before age 60, she won't be able to collect widow's benefits on her first husband's Social Security record. This doesn't seem fair since they were married for about 30 years. Is this true?
A: No, it's not true. Your friend will be eligible for widow's benefits on her first husband's Social Security account.
Normally, if a widow remarries before age 60, she relinquishes her rights to any benefits off her first husband's record. BUT, that is true only while the second marriage is in existence. If the second marriage ends for whatever reason — death, divorce, etc. — then the woman can go back and claim Social Security widow's benefits from husband No. 1's Social Security account.
Q: I thought I read in your column that a woman has to be at least 60 years old to get widow's benefits. But a neighbor told me the eligibility age is 50. Who is right?
A: Well, we both are, sort of!
The normal eligibility age for Social Security widow's benefits is 60. But the law says that if a woman is disabled, she can collect disabled widow's benefits as early as age 50. However, the eligibility criteria are rather strict, so a woman has to have a severe mental or physical impairment to collect disabled widow's benefits.
And by the way, a woman can collect widow's benefits at any age if she is caring for young children.
Q: What the heck is a "surviving divorced spouse?" I was looking up some information about widow's benefits on Social Security's website, and I came across that term, but couldn't figure out what it meant even within the context of information I was reading. Can you help?
A: "Surviving divorced spouse" is government bureaucratese for a divorced widow.
If a woman was married to a man for 10 years or more before getting divorced, and if her ex-husband dies, she would be potentially eligible for benefits as a surviving divorced spouse - I mean a divorced wife. That is, assuming she is at least 60 years old and has not remarried. (It doesn't matter if the ex-husband remarried.)
Q: I've heard different stories. Do I have to be married to my husband for 10 years, or nine months, to collect benefits on his Social Security record?
A: If you dump the guy — i.e., get divorced — it's 10 years. But as long as you're currently married to him, the "duration of marriage" requirement for eligibility to any kind of Social Security spousal benefit is only nine months.
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