Social Security rules for spousal benefits you should know

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

The benefits of marriage don’t end with love and companionship. In some situations, marriage can lead to more Social Security benefits. If you remain married for at least 10 years, these benefits may continue even if you divorce.

But the rules of marriage and Social Security are getting complicated.

You don’t automatically get more Social Security benefits just because you’re married. Many, if not most, people will get the most benefit from claiming their own worksheet.

But if your career is limited and you marry someone who makes significantly more money than you do, you can get more from Social Security by claiming spousal benefits. Here are some things married couples can’t afford not to know.

1. You can receive up to 50% of your spouse’s full benefit

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The maximum spouse’s benefit is 50% of your spouse’s primary insurance sum. That’s the benefit they’re entitled to once they reach full retirement age, which is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.

If you receive benefits before your own retirement age, you will receive less than 50%. For example, if you start your benefits at 62 – the earliest age at which you can collect Social Security – you would only receive 32.5% of your base amount.

2. You cannot use both services

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Sorry but the perks of marriage do not include double immersion. Social Security pays you whichever is greater: your own benefit or your spouse’s benefit, but not both.

Technically, if you qualify for some benefits based on your earnings history, Social Security uses your own records first. Then they will use your spouse’s records to give you the maximum benefit.

3. There is no additional credit for waiting past full retirement age for spouses

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If you take out Social Security on your own, you will receive the maximum benefit at age 70. Because for every year you delay Social Security past full retirement age, you’ll increase your retirement checks by 8% for life thanks to delayed retirement credit.

However, if you are receiving spousal benefits, you cannot earn deferred retirement benefits. Your benefits will peak when you reach full retirement age, which is 67 for anyone born after 1959.

4. You cannot claim a spouse’s Social Security Disability

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You can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) only if you are a self-payer for Social Security and have a qualifying medical condition.

You cannot receive disability benefits for another person’s records, including those of a spouse.

5. Divorce? You may still be able to receive a spouse’s allowance

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If you have been married for at least 10 years and divorced for at least two years, you can claim your ex-spouse’s social security.

The same rules apply to spouses: their maximum benefit is 50% of their original amount. You’ll get a reduced amount if you make an early claim, and you won’t get any delayed retirement credits if you wait past your full retirement age.

Your ex-spouse must be at least 62 years old for you to claim their records. Your decision will have absolutely no impact on your ex-spouse. Likewise, your benefits will not be reduced if someone you are divorced from claims Social Security.

6. If you’ve remarried, you can’t claim your ex’s benefits

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Once you remarry, you will not be allowed to claim spousal benefits from your ex’s Social Security. However, once you’ve been married for a year, you may qualify for benefits from your current spouse’s record.

If you’ve had more than one marriage that lasted 10 years or more and ended in divorce, Social Security will look at everyone’s records – yours and each ex-spouse’s – and give you the best advantage.

7. The survivor’s pension is up to 100% of the deceased spouse’s pension

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If your spouse dies before you, you are entitled to up to 100% of their Social Security benefits through survivor benefits if you wait until your full retirement age.

You can start a survivor’s benefit as early as 60 (or 50 if you are disabled), but you will receive a reduced amount. These rules also apply to ex-spouses if the marriage lasted 10 years.

As with spousal benefits, you receive whichever is greater: your own benefit or the survivor’s benefit, but not both.

There is also an exception to the surviving spouse’s remarriage rule: Widowed and ex-spouses who qualify for survivor’s benefits can remarry at age 60 (or at 50 if they are disabled) and continue to receive their deceased spouse’s benefits.