Retirement

Ex-Spouse Benefits And How They Affect You

February 15, 2018 • By

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!

See Comments

About the Author

Avatar

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Comments

Please review our Comment Policy before leaving a comment.

  1. Kathleen

    Hello I was wondering if I could collect on my Social Security at 62 and then my ex-husband’s at 67.
    His is definitely a greater amount. Please let me know thank you so

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Kathleen, thanks for using our blog to ask your questions. You may be able to get divorced spouse’s benefits but, under existing law, if you’re eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a divorced spouse, you must apply for both benefits and you’ll receive the higher of the two benefits. This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have also applied for the other.

      We will 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. However, the divorced spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (not the reduced benefit amount). So, you can only receive additional benefits if your own full retirement benefit (not your reduced benefit) is less than half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit.

      Check out our Benefits for a Divorced Spouse web page for other eligibility requirements and more detailed information.

      Reply
      • Mary Nuhfer

        I have applied for my ex benefits and normally how does it take to hear back..I have given all the information needed

        Reply
        • Vonda

          Hi Mary, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. You can log in to or create a my Social Security account to check the status of your application online.

          If you are unable to check your status online, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or 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.

          Reply
  2. Rhonda Davis

    I married my husband in 1992 and he passed away in 2000 at the age of 33. I was wondering when I can draw on his benefits since I am about to turn 59 years old. And how would I go about filing?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Rhonda, thanks for using our blog. If your husband worked long enough under Social Security, there may be benefits payable to survivors. You may be eligible for reduced widows benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled) and at any age if caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving benefits on the deceased’s record. Survivor benefit amounts are based on your husband’s earnings. The more he paid into Social Security, the higher the benefits would be. The benefits will not be established automatically, you will have to contact us. For additional information, visit our Survivors web page.

      You can call your local Social Security office. 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.

      Reply
  3. William Stripling

    If I begin drawing SS benefits at age 63 and 3 months, can my ex-wife still defer till her full SS age of 66 and 6 months and draw 50% of what my full benefit would have been at age 66 and 6 months, we were both born in 1957.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi William, thanks for using our blog to ask your questions. Your wife may be able to get spouse’s benefits but, under existing law, if she’s eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a spouse, she must apply for both benefits and she’ll receive the higher of the two benefits. This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have also applied for the other.

      There is an exception to deemed filing for those who turn 62 before January 2, 2016. Check out our Deemed Filing For Retirement And Spouse’s Benefits web page for details.

      If you need further assistance, 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.

      Reply
  4. Petrine Bisson

    I am a single divorced 70 yr old and qualify to receive my ex-spouses SS. Will I receive his SS amount if its a higher amount then mine?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Petrine, thanks for using our blog. If you are divorced, you may be able to receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried) if:

      – The marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
      – You’re unmarried.
      – You’re age 62 or older.
      – The benefit that you’re entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex’s work.
      – Your ex is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

      If you qualify, you may receive a monthly payment of up to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit amount. However, if you qualify for your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a divorced spouse, we always pay your own retirement benefits first.

      Check out our Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse web page for more information.

      Reply
  5. Page Rice

    My husband and I are planning our wills. He is 70 and I am 55. He has an ex-wife (married 20 years) and he is my first husband and we have been married 21 years. I have been told his ex-wife could actually request his social security if he passes away. Is this true?

    Reply
    • Sue

      Hi, Page. Thanks for reading our blog and for your question. Your husband’s former wife may be able to receive benefits based on your husband’s record (even though he has remarried) since their marriage lasted at least 10 years. Eligibility requirements vary depending on whether she receives benefits as a divorced spouse or as a surviving divorced spouse. Benefits paid to her as a surviving divorced spouse/widow won’t affect the benefit amount for other family members getting benefits on your husband’s record.

      Reply
  6. sherry zecchini

    I am 62 I am drawing ssi I was married for 27 years I just singed up on his ss disability if I get remarried will I be cut out of his ss disability

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Sherry, thanks for using our blog. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for how marriage may affect other benefits. We hope this helps!

      Reply
  7. Cindy Horacek

    Am retiring at 62 and plan on taking SS right away. My exhusband will be still working at that point. We were married 18 years. So what is your advice as this is confusing to me. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Cindy, thank you for the question. If your ex-spouse qualifies for retirement benefits but hasn’t applied, you may be able to receive benefits on their record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

      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. However, the divorced spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (not the reduced benefit amount). So, you can only receive additional benefits if your own full retirement benefit (not your reduced benefit) is less than half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit.

      Check out our Benefits for a Divorced Spouse web page for other eligibility requirements and more detailed information.

      Reply
  8. Marla Foit

    I was told by a woman at the Social Security Administration that I will be eligible to receive benefits, when I turn 65, under my ex-husband’s record since we were married twice (6/1992 to 1/1999 & 4/2011 to 6/2019) for a combined total of 14 years. I had not planned on applying for my benefit until I am 70. Can I collect under his record and switch to mine at 70 or do I need to apply under both of ours when I turn 65 and receive the higher the rest of my life?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Marla, thanks for using our blog to ask your questions. You may be able to get divorced spouse’s benefits but, under existing law, if you’re eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a divorced spouse, you must apply for both benefits and you’ll receive the higher of the two benefits. This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have also applied for the other.

      There is an exception to deemed filing for those who turn 62 before January 2, 2016. Check out our Deemed Filing For Retirement And Spouse’s Benefits web page for details.

      Reply
  9. John Smith

    I am going to be 66 on April 11 of this year. My wife is 75 and could not get her SS because she did not have enough credits. When I retire this year I know she can get hers through me. My question is we were told she can get back SS since she was retirement age. Is this true?

    Reply
    • Sue

      Thank you for your question, John. Since your wife doesn’t have 40 credits, she should be eligible for spouse’s benefits based on your earnings history once you’re entitled to your Social Security retirement benefit, not before. Check out our Frequently Asked Question for more details. She can apply for spouse’s benefits using our online retirement application. If she cannot file online or prefers not to, she should call her local office to schedule an appointment. Use our Office Locator to find the phone number. Our call volume and wait times are higher than normal, so please be patient. We hope this information is helpful.

      Reply
  10. Diana Miller

    I am 57 and on SSI. My ex is 65 and retired. I was advised to convert to drawing from his Social Security in about 3 years based on my disability. Am I looking at getting half of his amount? What if that amount is less than what I’m already getting?

    Reply
    • Sue

      Thanks for reading our blog, Diana, and for your questions. You may be able to receive benefits based on your ex-husband’s record (even if he has remarried) if your marriage lasted at least 10 years. Eligibility requirements vary for divorced spouse vs. surviving divorced spouse benefits. You must be at least 62 to draw benefits on your own work record and/or as a divorced spouse. Please see our Frequently Asked Question that explains what to do if you are eligible for both your own retirement and spouse benefits.

      If your former husband passes away, you may be eligible for divorced widow benefits as early as age 60, or if you are disabled, as early as age 50. In that case, you would want to contact us right away. We hope this helps.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Please review our Comment Policy before leaving a comment. For your safety, please do not post Personally Identifiable Information (such as your Social Security Number, address, phone number, email address, bank account number, or birthdate) on our blog.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *