Marriage, divorce, remarriage and divorced spouse benefits

One of the requirements to receive Social Security benefits as a divorced spouse is that the marriage lasted at least 10 years. 

A recent question asked if this 10-year period had to be continuous or whether it could be composed of several marriages for the couple. 

The person asked if a couple was married 7 years, then divorced for 9 years, and then remarried for another 6 years before again divorcing, would that meet the 10 year marriage requirement for divorced spouse  benefits?

As a general answer, multiple marriages of a couple can be combined to reach the 10 years but very specific time periods for divorce and remarriage exist for this to be possible. To combine more than one marriage to reach the 10-year total years of marriage, the time limit between divorce and remarriage must be no later than the calendar year following the calendar year of the divorce. 

Concerning the 10-year marriage requirement, Social Security instructions in part state: 

“This requirement is met if the divorce became final on or after the 10th anniversary of the marriage. This is so even if this period was interrupted by a prior divorce, provided the remarriage took place no later than the calendar year immediately following the calendar year of the divorce. Even when this requirement was not met with respect to the claimant’s last divorce, she or he may qualify based on a 10-year period of marriage immediately before a prior divorce….”

 “EXAMPLE: Robert, who married Lois on 5/6/80, was divorced 5/2/86. On 7/7/87, they remarried but were again divorced 9/5/90. The 10-year requirement is met. However, if Robert and Lois had remarried in 1988 instead of 1987 and were divorced again on 9/5/90, the 10-year requirement could not be met. The marriage must be in existence in each of the 10 years before the divorce in order for the claimant to be entitled.”

More about divorced spouse benefits is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/divspouse.htm. Call the Social Security national toll-free number (1-800-772-1213, TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local office for more specific information.

 

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