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

  1. I want to apply for Spousal Benefits. I have a copy of our Marriage Certificate and Divorce Decree. We were married December 1969 and divorced in 1986. Please let me know what the next step is in this Application process.

    Thank you

    • Hi Jeanne, 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 only if you start receiving those benefits at your full retirement age. If you begin to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits you qualify for once you opt to start benefits at age 62 or at any time prior to 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.

      You can apply online by using our Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application to apply for retirement, spouse’s,divorced spouse’s or Medicare benefits.

    • Hi Sylvia, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs based program so a change in income and assets can affect your benefits. 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.

  2. After 65 am I entitled to any benefits from my divorced spouse? He is currently receiving soc. sec. benefits. What application from do I need to fill out to apply for review.

    • Hi Dianeo, 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 only if you start receiving those benefits at your full retirement age. If you begin to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits you qualify for once you opt to start benefits at age 62 or at any time prior to 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.

      You can apply online by using our Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application to apply for retirement, spouse’s,divorced spouse’s or Medicare benefits.

  3. I lost my job due to the pandemic and am considering applying for my social security benefits now at age 64 . My ex spouse is only 60 . Do I give up the right to collect on any amount of his social security being that he is not eligible for benefits until 62 .

    • Hi Vera, thanks for using our blog. If you qualify for your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a divorced spouse, we always pay your own retirement benefits first. Once your ex turns 62 or older, you can inquire about receiving additional benefits on your ex’s record.

      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. Your benefit as a divorced spouse can be equal to one-half of your ex’s full retirement amount only if you start receiving those benefits at your full retirement age. If you begin to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits you qualify for once you opt to start benefits at age 62 or at any time prior to your full retirement age.

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

      Our system is set up to take retirement applications four months in advance, and when you’re ready, you can apply online. We hope this helps!

  4. I was married for 20 years and have been divorced for 20 years from my ex. I am 62 and about to collect benefits. My ex’s benefits are higher than mine. Will my benefits be adjusted to match the amount that he is collecting?

    • Hi Jane, 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 only if you start receiving those benefits at your full retirement age. If you begin to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits you qualify for once you opt to start benefits at age 62 or at any time prior to 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.

      You can apply online by using our Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application to apply for retirement, spouse’s, divorced spouse’s or Medicare benefits.

      • Thank you for your prompt response. Am I understanding this correctly? If my ex husband is collecting $1200 monthly as a benefit , would my personal benefit have to be below $600 monthly in order to collect under his record? Thank you

  5. Heres my situation:
    Married for 10 years.
    Divorced in 1990.
    Ex husband died at age 60 – December 2019.
    He was not collecting social security yet.
    Would I be eligible for any of his social security benefits? I will be 60 years old this month (august 2020).
    I am currently employed and not collecting as.
    Thanks

    • Hi, Mrs. Jones. Thanks for your question. If the marriage lasted for at least 10 years, you could be eligible for surviving divorced spouse benefits based on your ex-husband’s earnings, beginning at age 60. If you are disabled, you could qualify for benefits as early as age 50 if the disability started before or within 7 years of your ex-husband’s death. For additional information on Survivor benefits, check out our Survivors Planner. To find out whether you qualify and if you need to file an application, you can call our toll free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask to speak with one of our representatives, who are available Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. If you need to contact your local office, visit here. Hope this helps.

  6. i was married to my x-wife for twelve years and divorced 23 years ago, no legal divorce documents or leans say i owe her any social security ? does she get any of my social security

    • Hi, Fred. For your ex-spouse To be eligible for divorced spouse benefits, you had to be married to your former spouse for at least 10 years, and she cannot be eligible for a higher benefit on her own record. For more information about divorced spouse benefits, visit here. We hope this helps.

  7. can someone please help me….I started receiving Social Security payments in February 2020….Mine & that of my divorce spouse….In July said ex-souse died….recieved 2 letters from you on July 22…one stating my ex-has passed away…& so needed to talk w/ me about Widow’s Benefits….I called & recieved an appointment date of July 24…of which Mr. Boykins….to discuss this matter….after 2 hours…& several calls back…he stated that he wasn’t sure what he was doing…He said I would recieve new payments as Widow on August 26th….On that day I recieced only My payment…I have tried to talk to your representatives…but everyone give me different information…They say I need to talk to a specialist….I have left messages for the specialist in my area….but as if toady 6 days later I have not heard anything…I am living off my social Security payments….& without them I have money to pay my bills…but none for food….How can I be assured that this will be examined soon….

    • Hi, Debra. We are to hear about your situation and experience. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. Please contact your local Social Security office for assistance. You can ask to speak to a manager on your next call. We hope this is resolved soon.

  8. I want to go to the Social Security Office to apply for Ex-Spouse Benefits. What papers do I need to bring with me? I have my birth certificate, marriage certificate and my divorce decree. Do I need to bring a copy of my ex-spouse’s death certificate?

    • Hi Joan, 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 only if you start receiving those benefits at your full retirement age. If you begin to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits you qualify for once you opt to start benefits at age 62 or at any time prior to 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.

      You can apply online by using our Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application to apply for retirement, spouse’s,divorced spouse’s or Medicare benefits. If you do not want to apply online, please call to make an appointment. 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.

    • Hi Rick, thanks for using our blog. We will always pay a person’s own retirement benefit first. If benefits as a spouse/ex-spouse are higher than the retirement benefits, the person will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse/ex-spouse benefit. Keep in mind that your ex-spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of your full retirement amount (not your reduced benefit amount). So, your ex can only receive additional divorced spouse’s benefits if her own full retirement benefit (not her reduced benefit) is less than half of your full retirement benefit.

      Use our spouse’s benefit calculator to determine benefit percentage at various ages.

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