Ex-Spouse Benefits And How They Affect You

February 15, 2018 • By

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Last Updated: February 15, 2018

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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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Thomas H.

    I was married to my first wife who had two affaires after 24 years of marriage and filed for divorce! I was 45 years old and remarried 10 years later to my current wife. My second wife and I have been married 15 years. We are planning to be married till our deaths. I am 70 years of age. Is their anything you tell me about benefits I might be able to get now as having been her spouse.

  2. Jose T.

    Do I have a W2 form from SS to declare my income taxes? as I am collecting social security benefit from January 2017 Please let me know. Thanks.

    • Snarky

      SS does not send out W2 forms. They send out 1099’s. Call 800-772-1213 and ask for a copy. Also, ask about setting up an account.

    • R.F.

      Hello Jose. To check the status of a W-2 form, you should contact your employer’s human resource or personnel office. If you are referring to the Form SSA-1099 showing the amount of benefits paid to SSA beneficiaries during last year, you can request a replacement SSA-1099 for Tax Year 2018, by using your personal my Social Security account. We hope this helps!

  3. Elizabeth Z.

    If I claim my husband, will this effect the amount of money that he gets every month? We are no longer together.

    • Snarky


    • R.F.

      Great question, Elizabeth. Benefits paid to you as a spouse will not decrease your spouse’s retirement benefit. Visit our Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse for more information.

    • LILLIAN D.

      59 hopkinton WESTBOROUGH MASS 01581

  4. Anne G.

    I am applying on my ex-spouse’s benefits. My primary social security would be higher than the spousal benefits but if want to defer my own benefits to age 70. i can do that, right? my DOB is 5/28/52 and his DOB is 12/10/41

    • R.F.

      Thank you for your question, Anne. If you were born before January 2, 1954, and have already reached full retirement age, you can choose to receive only the divorced spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date. If your birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists. If you file for one benefit, you will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits.
      See our Retirement Planner: Recent Claiming Changes for more information.

  5. Elizabeth Z.

    Does social securty recognize a common law marriage?

    • R.F.

      Thank you for your question, Elizabeth. In cases where a common-law marriage may be involved, Social Security follows the state laws. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 and speak to one of our agents for further guidance on this matter. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

  6. euan w.

    Should receive s part of my ex wife social security. ,4247028119. Please call me…

    • R.F.

      Just a reminder – We do not have access to personal information, therefore, we do not do direct messaging in this venue. Please be cautious about posting personal information on social media and communicating personal information via email.
      Please visit our Retirement Planner: If You’re Divorced for information on this topic. Thanks!

  7. euan w.

    I am divorce and received social security check. Should I receive a portion of my ex wife benefits .

    • R.F.

      If you are eligible for both your own retirement benefits and benefits as a divorced spouse, we always pay your own 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.
      Visit our Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced for more information.
      Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 for further assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks!

  8. Carol A.

    Not sure if I can ask a question here, but I will. I am receiving SS on my work record. I get a partial from my ex- spouse. We were married 37 yrs. , have been divorced for 8 yrs. Can I change and get his if more than mine. I took early retirement at 63. They didn’t tell to me wait on my ex-spouse when I asked. They just gave to me when I talked to them. So can I do any thing to see about getting more SS money? Thank You Carol Gillette

    • R.F.

      Thank you for contacting us, Carol. Couple of things to keep in mind. First, if a person begins to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to their full retirement age, their benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits the person may qualify for.
      Also, if you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record and divorced spouse’s benefits, we will pay the retirement benefit first. If the benefit on your ex-spouse’s record is higher, you will get an additional amount on your ex-spouse’s record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount. For example: Let’s say that at your full retirement age you qualify for a retirement benefit of $250 and a divorced spouse’s benefit of $400. You will receive your own $250 retirement benefit, and we will add $150 from your ex-spouse’s benefit, for a total of $400.
      Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount only if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age.
      We hope this information helps. Visit our Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced for more information, thanks.

      • Maria R.

        I have an ex-spouse who was placed on full disability at age 60. I never remarried but he did (prior to age 60). I have a strong feeling that because he liked to work with paycheck not entirely on the books, he most probably has a lower SS benefit than mine, since I worked almost 40 years on payroll reported to IRS. I gathered that when they didn’t in processing my benefits when I applied mention that I could delay my benefits. Being that I had the higher benefits (go figure a woman had the higher benefits) , can I assume he could not apply against my benefits if he remarried before 60. I know if he can it doesn’t effect my benefits but I would like to be sure. Also if and when he dies, can a divorced ex-spouse apply for any widow survivor benefits . I was married over 14 years to my ex-spouse.

    • Walt

      You will be converted to a higher widow’s benefit if the ex-hubby predeceases you.

  9. Perma s.

    What if you are married and your spouse does before you are married 10 years

  10. brian w.

    theres not much in USA govt benefits can compare with europe but then europe is civilized and USA most certainly is not!

    • Mike

      You seem to be unhappy here. Feel free to leave anytime.

      • Laura

        Lol, people should only be receiving ss for 5 years. In 5 years they will have received payments equaling everything they paid into it. Every payment after that is welfare “socialism” and Europe can keep that.

        • Christine

          Agreed! Also FREE heathcare in Europe? Good luck getting an appointment for a doctor or any tests you need done there! What a messed up socialist remark!

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