- If you were previously married for 10 years or more, you may be eligible to collect Social Security benefits on your ex-spouse's record.
- Remarrying generally makes it so that you cannot collect your ex-spouse's benefits.
- Experts recommend you assess your Social Security prospects before that second trip down the aisle.
You may want to rethink that second walk down the aisle if you are approaching retirement, and counting on income from Social Security.
If you're eligible to collect benefits on your ex-spouse's record, you will no longer be eligible for those benefits if you remarry.
That rule, plus others, is one of the reasons financial advisors like Stacy Francis, president and CEO of Francis Financial in New York City, sit down with savers to plot out a careful strategy when it comes to claiming Social Security.
Knowing these strategies becomes more important with the rise of gray divorce. The divorce rate for adults age 50 and over has nearly doubled in the past 25 years, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
To be eligible to claim on your ex-spouse's Social Security benefits, whereby you receive up to half of their benefit amount, you must have been married at least 10 years and be at least 62 years of age.
You have the ability to choose between your own Social Security benefit or your ex-spouse's. Once you remarry, however, that choice is gone.
"This is where it pays to live in sin," Francis said. "If you get remarried, generally you can't collect on the benefits of your former spouse."
That changes if your second marriage ends because you get divorced, the marriage is annulled or your second spouse passes away.
At that point, if you were married to each spouse for 10 years or longer, you can choose between the two spouses' benefits, Francis said.
The benefit amounts do not change if more than one ex-spouse claims on one individual's records. Francis said she knows of one man whose four ex-wives were all eligible for the same spousal benefits on his record.
If you're close to the 10-year mark and contemplating a divorce, you may want to wait until you reach that anniversary.
That is what financial advisor Mark Smith, president of Vision Wealth Planning in Glen Allen, Virginia, said he saw one couple do. The wife prolonged making the divorce final for nine months in order to make sure she would qualify for benefits on her soon-to-be ex-husband's record.
If you do get remarried, you are eligible for spousal benefits on your new spouse's record, Smith said. You generally must be married for one year to be eligible (assuming you are still married and have reached age 62.)
"It wouldn't be noticeable unless your second spouse earns noticeably less than your first spouse," Smith said.
If your ex-spouse is deceased, however, you can claim survivor benefits starting from age 60.
Remarrying before age 60 will cut off your eligibility to collect on your first spouse's record if they are deceased, Smith noted.
If you wait until age 60 or after to remarry, you can still collect those survivor benefits from your previous spouse.
"When you have access to more than one type of benefit, that's when you have to figure out which one is best to claim and in which order," Smith said.
You could lose out if you don't take that advice, noted Mike Piershale, president of Piershale Financial Group in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
Piershale knows a couple who got married in their late 50s, making the individual with a deceased previous spouse ineligible for survivor benefits.
"If they had just waited until 60 to get married, they could have gotten a survivor benefit," Piershale said.
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