Ex-Spouse Benefits And How They Affect You

two women and child smiling Just like during tax season, it’s good to have all the information you need early so you can prepare and get any money you are due.

If you are age 62, unmarried, and divorced from someone entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, you may be eligible to receive benefits based on his or her record. To be eligible, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for 10 years or more. If you have since remarried, you can’t collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ended by annulment, divorce, or death. Also, if you’re entitled to benefits on your own record, your benefit amount must be less than you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work. In other words, we’ll pay the higher of the two benefits for which you’re eligible, but not both.

You can apply for benefits on your former spouse’s record even if he or she hasn’t retired, as long as you divorced at least two years before applying. If, however, you decide to wait until full retirement age to apply as a divorced spouse, your benefit will be equal to half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount or disability benefit. The same rules apply for a deceased former spouse.

The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the benefits of your ex-spouse and his or her current spouse. Visit Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced to find all the eligibility requirements you must meet to apply as a divorced spouse. Our benefits planner gives you an idea of your monthly benefit amount. If your ex-spouse died after you divorced, you may still quality for widow’s benefits. You’ll find information about that in a note at the bottom of the website.

Visit Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced today to learn whether you’re eligible for benefits on your ex-spouse’s record. That could mean a considerable amount of monthly income. What you learn may bring a smile to your face … even on tax day!

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757 thoughts on “Ex-Spouse Benefits And How They Affect You

  1. I am 79 years old. Started SS in 2006. Was told at that time I should not collect ex’s SS. Married in 1960. Divorced in 1978. Never remarried. Collecting my own SS in the amount of $2,069. Would like to know how to go about filing and how much would I get

    • Hi Delores, thanks for using our blog. We will always pay your own retirement benefit first. If your benefits as a divorced spouse are higher than your own retirement benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. You can only receive additional divorced spouse’s benefits if your own full retirement benefit (not your reduced benefit) is less than half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit.

      Generally, during the initial interview when applying for Social Security benefits, we typically explore all other benefits that could yield you a higher benefit amount.

      If your ex-spouse passes away, you may be eligible for surviving divorced spouse’s benefits. Check out our Survivors Planner for details.

  2. I have been told I can collect a portion of my ex-husbands benefits. He died in 2019. we were divorced in 1991. How can I find out how to do this?
    Thank you,
    Beverly Lynn Fox

    • Hi Beverly, thanks for using our blog. If your ex-husband worked long enough under Social Security, there may be benefits payable to you as a surviving divorced spouse. You may be eligible for reduced benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled). Survivor benefit amounts are based on your ex-husband’s earnings. The more he paid into Social Security, the higher the benefits would be. Check out our Survivors Planner for additional details on surviving divorced spouse’s benefits.

      To inquire and/or apply for surviving divorced spouse’s benefits, call us at 1-800-772-1213 or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  3. Hello,
    My ex-husband passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 6, 2020. He has a minor daughter that has always lived with me-now 14 years old. We were married 10 years. He was 64 and receiving both benefits for himself and his daughter.
    I am 55 years old and the custodial parent. Would either of us receive any money now? Please be as specific as possible and explain how to go through the process. He did not leave a will. Thank you.

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Cristina. The child may be eligible for survivor benefits if the child’s father earned enough Social Security credits through his work. Unmarried children who are under 18 (up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full time) can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a parent dies.

      We also have surviving divorced spouse’s benefits. If you are divorced, 60 and older and currently unmarried, you may be able to receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record if your marriage lasted 10 years or longer. Check out our Survivors Planner: If You’re Divorced for other eligibility requirements and more detailed information.

      To apply for survivor benefits, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  4. My ex spouse retired last. Month in august
    His name is William H. Pelkey
    I was told I could get spousal support when he retired

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Edward. Typically, the funeral director notifies us of an individual’s passing by contacting the local Social Security office. To verify this information was reported, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal.

      Check out our Factsheet on How Social Security Can Help When a Family Member Dies for more information.

  5. I’ve done my best reading all the info, but I am still very confused. I am 71, divorced twice and collecting social security. I just lost my job and I believe that I’m reading that I might be able to collect something additional from one or both ex-wives. My first marriage lasted 16 yrs. She is retired, age 67 and I believe collecting. My second marriage lasted 18 years, she is still working and only 60. The site says “If you since remarried, you can’t collect benefits on your former spouses record unless your later marriage ended by annulment, divorce or death”. It ended in divorce, so I seem to meet that requirement. It goes on the say that I can apply for benefits on your former spouses record even if he or she hasnt retired, as long as you divorced at least two years before applying. I seem to meet that also. Some extra money in my benefit check right now would help me a lot. So what, if anything, can I apply for here? Thank you.

    • Hi Andy, thanks for using our blog. If you are divorced and currently unmarried, you may be able to receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record if your marriage lasted 10 years or longer. Your benefit as a divorced spouse can be equal to one-half of your ex’s full retirement amount if you start receiving those benefits at your full retirement age.

      Remember, if you qualify for your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a divorced spouse, we always pay your own retirement benefits first. If your benefits as a divorced spouse are higher than your own retirement benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher divorced spouse benefit.

      See our Retirement Planner: If You’re Divorced for other eligibility requirements and more detailed information.

      If you think you qualify, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  6. I am 56 and my wife is 62, she is collecting retirement. We are getting divorced. I understand that we received 50% of the spouses retirement. If I am not 62 would I be forced to apply for it early and take a penalty?

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