The serial monogamist's revenge
November 5, 2011 5:02 AM   Subscribe

Here is one requiring some detailed knowledge of social security benefits. How many ex-spouses can I make eligible for spousal benefits?

Under the social security system, a spouse can receive a benefit up to one-half of the worker's benefit, even without any earning history. According to SSA publications, the same is true for "your divorced spouse" if the marriage lasted ten years or more. Is there any limit other than the time? Can one worker really generate benefits for three or more ex-spouses plus a current spouse?
posted by megatherium to Law & Government (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, there are other limits besides time. They state it on several different pages, but this is written specifically for women:

If you are divorced, you can receive benefits based on your ex-husband’s work if—

Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer;
You are unmarried;
You are age 62 or older;
The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefits you would receive on your husband’s work; and
Your ex-husband is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
posted by Houstonian at 5:37 AM on November 5, 2011

There is also a family maximum benefit amount. There could theoretically be 1 widow and 4 or more ex-wives all drawing from the same wage earner, but once the maximum benefit is reached, each subsequent beneficiary added to the account will reduce the benefit amount of the others.

Same thing for survivors benefits. If 1 man dies and leaves 12 kids under 18 by 9 women, they could possibly all draw survivors benefits up to the maximum benefit, reduced as each child files on the same record. Or any combination of widows/exwives/survivors (and in some cases even parents) that you can possibly imagine.

People try to get benefits for a child even if the child was conceived after the death of the wage earner. Check out Beeler v. Astrue and Woodward v. Commissioner for examples of people trying to claim benefits for a child created through artificial insemination after the father's death. Human relationships are messy.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:11 AM on November 5, 2011

I guess I did not make my question clear. Theoretically, one man could marry four or more women, with each marriage lasting more than ten years. Is it really true that each one of the women could claim a divorced spouse's benefit based on his earnings history?
posted by megatherium at 2:31 PM on November 5, 2011

The answer is yes, with caveats.

If a man marries four women, and each marriage lasts ten years, and the women do not remarry, and the women would earn less in Social Security based on their own earnings than the man's, then when the man reaches retirement age each woman may receive Social Security benefits.

If the total amount is more than the family maximum benefits, then the family maximum benefit is divided. The man will receive the same amount, but the remaining is divided among the four ex-wives.
posted by Houstonian at 3:49 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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