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Howard Kossover: Divorced spouses can still collect benefits if married over 10 years

Q: One of the requirements to receive Social Security divorced spouse benefits is that the marriage had lasted at least 10 years. Must this be one continuous marriage or could it combine multiple marriages and divorces for a couple?

A: As background for this divorced spouse benefits question, the person asked if the 10 year marriage requirement could be met if a couple had been married 7 years, then divorced for several years, and then remarried for another 6 years before again divorcing.

For the above situation the answer is no but, as a more general answer, multiple marriages of a couple can be combined for divorced spouse benefits if very specific time-period requirements for divorce and remarriage are met.

To reach the required 10 years of marriage by combining more than one marriage, the remarriage must have taken place no later than the calendar year immediately following the calendar year of the divorce.

For example, say that Robert and Lois marry in May 1980, and divorce in May 1986.

They remarry each other in July 1987, before divorcing again in September 1990.

The 10-year requirement can be met.

However, if Robert and Lois had remarried in 1988 instead of 1987, and were divorced again in September 1990, the 10-year requirement could not be met.

The marriage must be in existence in each of the 10 years before the divorce in order for divorced spousal benefits to be possible.

Go online to for divorced spouse benefit information or call the Social Security national toll-free number (1-800-772-1213, TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Did You Know? The 2014 calendar with Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payment dates is at

Routine Social Security retirement, disability, and survivor benefits are paid in the following month, meaning the benefit for January arrives in February.

Routine SSI payments are for the month paid so SSI arriving in February is for February.

The 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will arrive in January 2014 for Social Security.

Increased payments to SSI beneficiaries will begin on Dec. 31.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at