An internet search for “divorce celebrations” turns up a range of gift ideas, from care boxes of scented candles and mugs imprinted with affirmations to more (many more) ribald ideas, like a T-shirt that says, “You can’t fix stupid, but you can divorce it.”  

These cheeky ideas may leave you thinking that it's over once the divorce papers are signed. But that’s not so. Even years after a divorce, Social Security has some surprise gifts—options for financial support that revert to when a couple was married.

I consult daily with financial advisors to find the optimal Social Security filing strategies for their clients, using advanced software to survey the options based on birth year, estimated benefit amounts, marital status and more.

Cases of divorce come up often. After all, around 45% of marriages end in divorce. If you have divorced clients, they need your help understanding their rights when filing against an ex-spouse’s earnings record and planning on if or how they’ll take advantage.  

Married For At Least 10 Years? Your Clients May Be In Luck
Social Security limits who can collect Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s earnings. To do so, an individual must have:     
• Been married for at least 10 years.
• Reached age 62.
• Not remarried.
• A primary insurance amount (PIA) from Social Security that is less than one-half of the former spouse’s PIA. (Primary insurance amount (PIA) is the term that describes what anyone eligible for Social Security benefits is entitled to upon reaching normal, or full, retirement age. Full retirement age (FRA) varies depending on someone’s birth month and year. Look yours up at

To find out what an individual’s PIA is, they can enroll at for an account (they’ll need one eventually).

Anyone who meets these criteria is entitled to benefits on a former spouse’s record any time after the divorce if the ex-spouse has already applied for benefits.

Ex-Spouse Hasn’t Filed? Hope Is Not Lost
Anyone who meets all the criteria above and has been divorced for at least two years is, in Social Security parlance, an Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse (IEDS).

An IEDS can file for divorced spousal benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) no matter if the ex-spouse has filed for benefits yet.

Those who don’t qualify as an IEDS can set a timer and wait until they do. Or they can wait for their former spouse to file for benefits.  

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