How Remarriage Effects Your Social Security Benefit

The rules for claiming Social Security are important when it comes to remarriage. But most people don’t know what options are available to them. The determining factor in terms of remarriage and Social Security benefits has to do with at what age you remarry. Couples marrying for a second (or subsequent) time before age sixty (60) suffer different rules than those who remarry at or after the age of 60.

Sixty is important in a number of ways. If you’re a widow, or widower, it means you can draw Social Security benefits from your deceased spouse; however, anytime you take Social Security benefits before the full retirement age—which is now sixty-six years of age—you’re penalized for the early benefits. Surviving spouses who draw on the account as early as age sixty take a 28% lifetime penalty; even at sixty-two years of age the penalty is 25%. It’s an onerous punishment. Many individuals elect to receive their benefit at sixty-two years of age, thinking no Social Security will be left by the time they need it. For most it is a terrible decision to withdraw early. Acceptable reasons to take the penalty and draw on the account early occur where the surviving spouse cannot survive financially or is ill with a short life expectancy. In any case, it is important to get good advice on Social Security before withdrawing prior to age sixty-six. Age sixty is also important for remarriage after a divorce.

Here’s an example to illustrate:

Mary divorced many years ago and remarried after the age of sixty. Can Mary draw on her ex-spouse’s Social Security retirement benefit? Or is she limited to draw from her new spouse’s or her own? Keep in mind sixty is the magic number; if Mary had remarried before age sixty, the rules would be different.

There’s one important factor that relates in Mary’s case: whether her ex-spouse is still living. If the ex-spouse is still alive, then there’s nothing Mary can collect from the divorced spouse’s benefit; she can draw on her new spouse’s Social Security or her own.  However, if Mary’s ex-spouse is no longer living, she can claim either her ex-spouses full Social Security benefit, her new spouses benefit, or her own. This is true even if Mary’s ex-spouse remarried, and the new spouse also draws on the account; the benefit is not diminished in any way for both Mary and the new spouse drawing on the benefit. If Mary remarried prior to age sixty, then this option would be lost.

The bottom line is remarriage before or after age sixty alters your options for Social Security benefits.


If you have questions about elder law, asset protection or retirement planning, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates—we are experienced attorneys who offer a unique blend of asset protection, Elder law and estate planning. You can also attend our free seminars. Learn more through our website at, or call us at (919) 256-7000.

Attorney Bill Alexander of W.G. Alexander & Associates discusses these issues and more every Saturday morning on his radio program, “Asset Protection Today,” on TalkRadio 680 WPTF (AM). Be sure to listen from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM.