When it comes to retirement, many Michigan residents look forward to collecting the Social Security benefits that they have paid into in all of their years of employment. It is possible to start claiming those benefits at the age of 62. Spouses have the right to file claims on each other records, as do ex-spouses — under certain circumstances. How does divorce affect Social Security spousal claims?

There are many, too many, rules that govern the Social Security program. Those rules are always changing, so one may think they have a handle on how the program works only to find out that is not the case. Per the current Social Security guidelines, those who divorce have more claiming options than those who are married.

The Bipartisan Act of 2015 allows those born by Jan. 1, 1954, to make claims on their ex-spouse’s records — even if their former spouse has not yet started claiming benefits. At the same time, they can suspend their own benefits until the age of 70, allowing their SS benefits to continue growing. However, to make claims on an ex-spouse’s record, the marriage must have lasted a minimum of 10 years, the divorce must have happened at least two years before filing the claim and the individual making the restricted spousal claim must not have remarried. If a couple remains married, only one spouse can claim spousal benefits.

When broken down, figuring out if one qualifies for this benefit is relatively easy — that is until the rules change again. For the time being, Michigan residents who meet the birthdate requirement and the marriage length requirement, but who are just filing for divorce, will have to wait at least two years after the dissolution has been officially finalized before they can make restricted spousal claims. Anyone with questions about how spousal benefits work when getting a divorce can speak to legal counsel or a financial adviser about the program rules and how those rules apply to them.