Social Security: What Do You Need To Apply For Spousal or Divorced Benefits?

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Applying for and receiving spousal benefits is a great way to boost your own Social Security monthly benefit — sometimes by as much as $800. Even if you never worked, under Social Security you could be eligible for benefits if you are at least 62 years of age and your spouse/ex-spouse has already claimed retirement benefits.

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You can apply online if you are within three months of your 62nd birthday or older or by calling the national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213. You can also visit your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required but if you call ahead and request one it may reduce the time spent waiting to apply.

Documents that will be needed to apply will include:

  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year
  • Final divorce decree, if applying as a divorced spouse
  • Marriage certificate
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It’s important to note that the Social Security Administration accepts photocopies of W-2 forms, self-employment tax returns or medical documents but will accept only original copies of most other documents, like your birth certificate and marriage certificate. Original documents will always be returned to you.

Even if you do not have all of the documents listed above, the SSA states that you should still apply. They can assist in helping you obtain whatever documents you are missing.

You will also be asked to provide personal information such as the number of children you have and their ages, your military status, your citizenship status and work history, among other items. 

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You can apply for and receive spousal benefits even if you are divorced. If you are divorced, your marriage must have lasted ten or more years in order for you to be eligible to receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record. You personally must also not be re-married, as then you would have to file for benefits under your new spouse. You are eligible to receive benefits under your ex-spouse if the benefit you are entitled to receive on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive under your ex-spouse.

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 
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