“Gray Divorce” is the newest term for baby boomers who are divorcing in record numbers after age 50.  Besides the property divisions which, in Texas, are pretty clear cut, Social Security benefits to a divorcing spouse are questions we get often from our clients.  According to the SSA, anyone who was married at least 10 years, is divorced and currently single, is eligible to claim spousal benefits on an ex-spouse’s earnings record.

As long as a couple has been divorced at least two years and are at least 62 years old, former spouses can claim on an ex spouse’s earnings record even if that person has not yet claimed Social Security. Ex-spouses (who do not remarry before age 60) are also entitled to survivor benefits when an ex-spouse dies.

A new law limits the ability of spouses and qualified ex-spouses to claim spousal benefits when they turn 66. Often, in the past,  planners recommended that spouses take a spousal benefit only and allow the worker’s benefit to grow by 8% per year until 70.  A spousal benefit is worth 50% of the worker’s benefit if the person collecting the spousal benefit is at least 66 years old.

This strategy is known as filing a “restricted claim for spousal benefits.”   At age 70, the spouse can then switch to their own larger Social Security benefit.  This strategy is being phased out and only boomers who turned 62 by the end of 2015 (including anyone born on or before Jan. 1, 1954) can still file a restricted claim for spousal benefits when they turn 66.