Claiming Social Security Benefits After Divorce

You may be surprised to know that if you’re divorced you are entitled to Social Security benefits earned by your ex-spouse. The rules can be confusing, but the information is easily accessible by creating an account at SSA.Gov.

Many questions can arise about your eligibility for Social Security benefits, such as…am I entitled to benefits if I am remarried? Can I make a claim on more than one ex-spouse? Should I divorce in order to collect a widow benefit? In fact, a widow(er) is not entitled to benefits on a prior spouse’s Social Security record if they’re remarried and if their current marriage occurred before they turned 60. But…they can potentially qualify for benefits if their remarriage ends in divorce, even for the sole purpose of claiming benefits.

The Basic Rules

If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried) if:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
  • Your ex-spouse is unmarried.
  • Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older.
  • The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on their own work is less than the benefit they would receive based on your work.
  • You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

How Much Can I Receive?

How much you receive depends on how much your ex-spouse qualifies for. If you’re at full retirement age, you’ll be eligible for payments that are 50 percent of whatever your ex-spouse would get. But if you begin taking the benefits before your full retirement age, they’ll be permanently reduced.

Additional Facts to Know

The following are Social Security benefit facts that may influence divorce or retirement planning:

  • More than one spouse/ex-spouse can claim a Social Security benefit on a wage earner.
  • An ex-spouse who is remarried can claim a Social Security benefit on their previous spouse’s earning record.
  • A claim on a former spouse’s work record will not result in a reduced benefit to him/her.
  • An ex-spouse will not know if a Social Security benefits claim has been made on his/her earning record.
  • A divorce settlement will not prevent you from making a Social Security benefits claim on a former spouse’s earnings record.
  • You can claim a Social Security benefit based on an ex-spouse’s earnings record while your benefit continues to grow until your full retirement age.

Retirement, Social Security, and divorce are complex on their own. When combined, things can get very confusing. If you’re divorced and nearing retirement, it’s a good time to educate yourself about Social Security and collecting benefits from a divorced spouse. Knowing what you are entitled to can help you make informed decisions while going through a divorce.

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