Sep 302012
 

Q: I was married for 21 years. Will I still get my ex-husband’s social security if I change my name back to my maiden name?

A: Yes, but the amount you receive depends on his and your past employment and contributions, and your age when you start drawing benefits. If your social security benefits, based on your own past employment and contributions, are less than your ex-husband’s, then you are entitled to receive his benefits.

Most Ex-Wives Receive Their Ex-Husband’s Social Security Benefits

Here’s what the US Government says about an ex-wife receiving her ex-husband’s social security benefits:

If you have never asked Social Security about receiving benefits based on your ex-husband’s work, you should do so. Many women get a higher benefit based on their ex-husband’s work, especially if he is deceased. When you apply, you will need to give his Social Security number. If you do not know his number, you will need to provide his date and place of birth and his parents’ names.

The following requirements also apply to your divorced husband if his eligibility for benefits is based on your work.

If you are divorced, you can receive benefits based on your ex-husband’s work if:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer;
  • You are unmarried;
  • You are age 62 or older;
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefits you would receive on your husband’s work; and
  • Your ex-husband is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

That was from the official website of the US Social Security Administration. It’s important for you to call them about your own individual situation, and get answers from them in writing.

It’s also important to remember that if you took your maiden name after getting a divorce, you need to tell Social Security about your name change.

Steve Vernon over at CBS Money Watch added two more things to be aware of:

  • If your own wage earnings produce a larger benefit than the spouse’s benefit, then you’ll receive your own benefit instead of the spouse’s benefit. You can’t collect both.
  • The fact that you collect a spouse’s benefit on your ex’s earnings record does not impact his benefit in any way. In fact, he can remarry and his wife can receive a Social Security spouse’s income as well.

Also, pay careful attention to the details of your divorce settlement. One reader who contacted me revealed that she had been divorced one day shy of 10 years. Because of that, she isn’t eligible for the Social Security spouse’s benefit from her ex-husband. A smart attorney would have caught this problem.

- From Divorced? How to Get Social Security Benefits From an Ex-Spouse.

Pension Info for Divorced Couples in Canada

In Canada, pension benefits seem a bit more complicated for ex-wives and ex-husbands. According to the Globe and Mail, your pension will be included in the assets that you share with your spouse when you divorce. Depending on what province you live in, one of these three things could happen:

  • You make a fair trade: Your ex-spouse agrees to let you keep your pension and takes something else of equal value. They may take another pension plan, some savings or investments, or even property. The hard part is to figure out what your pension is worth at the time you divorce.
  • You divide it up now: You and your ex-spouse agree to split up the pension. Your plan transfers your ex-spouse’s share to his or her personal Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). Check to see if your plan allows this.
  • You split the pension later, when you retire: The plan will pay part of the pension to you and part to your ex-spouse. It’s up to your ex-spouse to make sure they get their share when you retire.

- From What Happens to My Pension if My Life Changes?

To get the best answer for whether or not you’ll receive your ex-husband’s social security benefits after you divorce, you need to contact the government directly. Don’t take this general advice for absolute truth, because your circumstances may change your eligibility for benefits.

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