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My former spouse and I were married for 28 years. We married

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Christopher, my former spouse and...
Christopher, my former spouse and I were married for 28 years. We married in 1988, followed by a divorce-from-bed-and-board in 2008, until he filed for final divorce June 2016, the same month I turned 65. We were born 1951 and 1953, respectively. He remarried soon after that date. Today, at age 66, I had planned to file and suspend as a divorced spouse. I was told by SSA staff that I would not be eligible until we had been divorced for at least two years, and would have to file my application based on my record now. Is this considered deemed, final - or can I suspend and file under his record between June 2018 and when I turn 70 in 2021?
Submitted: 2 months ago.Category: Social Security
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Answered in 4 hours by:
9/30/2017
Social Security Expert: emc011075, Tax Adviser replied 2 months ago
emc011075
emc011075, Tax Adviser
Category: Social Security
Satisfied Customers: 3,267
Experience: Tax adviser IRS licensed Enrolled Agent and tax instructor
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Hi. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to help you.

You cannot file-and-suspend your benefits any more. This option expired on April 30, 2016. With filing and immediately suspending your benefits you would not get any benefits at all. This option allowed the other spouse to apply for spousal benefits.

What you are probably talking about is a restricted application. You can choose to collect lower spousal benefits and let your own grow until 70. Because you were born before 1953, you will still qualify for restricted application. However, first you need to qualify for spousal benefits. If he is currently collecting his benefits, you are eligible right away (as long as both of you is 62 or older). But if he is not applying for his own benefits until later, you must be divorced for at least 2 years. If he is not applying for his own you will have to wait for 2 years to be eligible for spousal benefits and to be able to file for restricted benefits, assuming you will not apply for your own earlier.

Your current options are to file for your own and stay with it or wait for 2 years (without any benefits), apply for restricted benefits next year and than at 70 switch to your own.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
This is not helpful - you have reiterated the problem I presented without offering any viable solutions. I do not think this forum is appropriate for me. Thank you.
Social Security Expert: emc011075, Tax Adviser replied 2 months ago

As I said at the end, your current options are to file for your own and stay with it or wait for 2 years (without any benefits), apply for restricted benefits next year and than at 70 switch to your own.

File and suspend is not available after April 2016.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
Your answer was unsatisfactory, and did not provide any answers or information I was not already aware of - you rephrased information readily available on the SS, and I am not interested in paying you $52 more to discuss it further.
I will repeat my question with more detail but I am not willing or able to pay again at this time. The SS agent was very courteous, but did not let me stop the process when I asked to hit "pause" and hold the application to give me time to think it over. I was told it was already "in", even though it was not complete, which may be be part of her job. I felt confused by this new information (re former spouse, below) and would have preferred to think it over this coming week and review the financials.
According to SS's perspective, I was legally married for 28 years but I am not recognized as a former spouse because we have been divorced for less than two years. I was not able to file a restricted application nor a regular application for full retirement as a former spouse. 28 years! To reiterate my question, I went in person, not online, with my documents, with the specific intention of submitting a restricted application as a former spouse under his record, then switch to mine at age 70 (in 3 years and 8+ months). Married in 1988, we had a divorce-from-bed-and-board in NJ, which includes a property settlement agreement (equitable distribution), in 2008, followed by a final divorce in 2016, the month I turned 65, soon after which he remarried. Between the filing of the divorce-from-bed-and-board in 2008 and final divorce in 2016, at no time whatsoever did we hold ourselves out as a couple. We were and are parents only.
My meeting re application at Social Security was this past Friday, 9/28,2017, shortly before the SS office closed. I checked online and it was submitted and approved without questioning these outstanding issues. It is already in the system - I am very distressed. I went online and see that I can withdraw the application, but a voluntary withdrawal may not be in my best interests if I can't reapply in 8 months as a former spouse. Furthermore, not allowing me to file as a former spouse is causing immediate and future potential hardship for me, and also for our son, who has a disability with an onset under the age of 22, unclassified and not receiving any public benefits. He lives with me. I do not wish to involve him in any way this issue, which should rest on my status as a former spouse.
Customer reply replied 2 months ago
I researched the 2 year duration of divorce and understand that it was instituted to prevent "sham" divorces - that people would divorce to file, for whatever benefit that brought, I do not know. Not only was this not a sham divorce, my former husband has remarried. He is(est) 2 years, 5 months younger; we were both born before 1954. Social Security has multiple definitions of how to recognize a marriage - holding to the community they are married or unmarried, for example - but appear to limit recognition of the end of marriage to divorce or annulment. If there are various methods to recognize a couple as entering a marriage, it seems there should be ways to recognize the end of a marriage, other than divorce or annulment, as including divorce-from-bed-and-board with equitable distribution. This is not a question, rather a comment.
Social Security Expert: taxmanrog, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) replied 2 months ago
taxmanrog
taxmanrog, Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Category: Social Security
Satisfied Customers: 801
Experience: Licensed CPA, MA, MST with 31 years' experience. Teach Accounting and Tax courses at Masters level.
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Hi. Different expert here. A Divorce from Bed and Board is a term in NJ (and VA and other places) that is also referred to as a "limited divorce" because after this type of divorce, a couple is still technically married. You are correct that the original purpose of the two year rule is to prevent sham divorces. However, regardless of the reason for your divorce, and regardless of whether or not he has remarried, you still have to wait the two years before you can collect his benefits.

The SSA person should not have put this in for you if you did not consent. You need to go back to the SSA office and discuss this with a supervisor. They should be able to stop the process without affecting your future reapplication in 8 months.

I am sorry for your situation. But Eva was correct and gave you the correct answer. There are no alternatives. You originally asked to file and suspend, a practice that was popular prior to April of this year. However, it is no longer available as Eva correctly told you.

Good luck with your issue!

Roger

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