SSR 80-7: Title II—Duration of Marriage Requirement for Divorced Wives and Surviving Divorced Wives
To state new policy changing the duration of marriage requirement from 20 years to 10 years for entitlement to benefits as a divorced wife or surviving divorced wife. The 10-year duration of marriage requirement also applies in determining when a divorce will terminate a wife's insurance benefit. These changes were made by the Social Security Amendments of 1977.
Section 337, Public Law (95-216 (Social Security Amendments of 1977); Sections 202(b) and 216(b) of the Social Security Act, as amended; Regulations No. 4, sections 404.330-404.338.
Divorced wives and surviving divorced wives of insured workers are entitled to benefits if statutory requirements are met. Under law prior to the 1977 amendments, a "divorced wife" was defined as a woman divorced from an individual, but only if she had been married to him for a period of 20 years immediately before the date the divorce became effective. In addition, the law provided for the termination of a wife's benefit if she and the wage earner were divorced, unless the wife had attained age 62 and she and the wage earner had been married for 20 years.
Congress was concerned that divorced women who were married less than 20 years were reaching retirement age without social security protection. The 1977 amendments changed the 20-year marriage requirement in these situations to 10 years.
Effective January 1, 1979, the duration of marriage requirement for divorced wives and surviving divorced wives is reduced to 10 years. Therefore, divorced wives or surviving divorced wives who were married to insured husbands for at least 10 years on the date the divorce became effective and meet the other requirements of the law may qualify for monthly insurance benefits staring January 1979.
A wife entitled to wife's insurance benefits in or after December 1978, who is subsequently divorced from the wage earner, will not have her benefits terminated if she has attained age 62 and she and the wage earner were married for a period of at least 10 years immediately before the date the divorce became effective.
A woman previously entitled to wife's benefits, whose benefit was terminated because she was divorced from the husband after less than 20 years of marriage, may qualify for monthly insurance benefits as a divorced wife or surviving divorced wife starting January 1979 if the 10-year duration of marriage requirement is met.
In order to become entitled to monthly benefits after December 1978 as a divorced wife or surviving divorced wife on the basis of the 10-year duration of marriage requirement, the filing date of an application for such benefits must be on or after January 1, 1979.
The evidence currently required to prove age, marriage, and divorce will continue to be required.
As a result of the U.S. District Court decision in Oliver v. Califano (Civil Action No. 76-2397 SC, June 24, 1977, the 10-year duration of marriage requirement also applies to divorced husbands effective January 1979. (See Program Policy Statement No. 41.)
Final regulations covering these policies were published in the Federal Register on June 15, 1979, at 44 FR 34479.
Claims Manual sections A201-A202 and A401-A402; Program Policy Statement No. 41, Title II—Implementing the District Court Decision in Oliver v. Califano To Pay Divorced Husbands' Benefits.