Retirement

Ex-Spouse Benefits And How They Affect You

February 15, 2018 • By

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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Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Comments

  1. caroline

    i am divorced for 8 years. both myself and my ex husband have reached full retirerment age. ICan i collect half his SS if i remarry .

    • Vonda

      Thanks for your question, Caroline. If you are divorced, you can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried) if:

      – Your 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-spouse’s work.
      – Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

      Check out our Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse web page for more information. We hope this helps!

    • Susan

      Vonka, Caroline is asking if she can get her ex’s social security if she remarried ?

      • Vonda

        Hi Susan, thanks for using our blog. My response to Caroline indicates you must be unmarried to receive divorced spouse’s benefits. Thank you.

  2. Barbara

    Was married for 10 years. Divorced for 16 years never remarried. I will be full retirement here at 66 this year. Can I receive my ex-spouses benefits at this time..even though he is 7 yrs younger? Does he have to be at retirement age of 62 in order for me to be able to receive his benefits? Also once you start receiving your own benefits..are you able to later on in years to apply for your ex-spouses benefits?

    • Vonda

      Hi Barbara, thank you for 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. Your ex-spouse must be receiving disability benefits or eligible for retirement benefits (must be 62 or older).

      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.

      • Barbara

        Appreciate so much for the information provided. I did look at that benefits for divorced spouse and it didn’t say about later on being able to get/ or will the SS office automatically increase my benefits on when the ex-spouses reaches his retirement age of 62.

        • Vonda

          Hi Barbara. Once your ex-spouse files for Social Security benefits and lists you as an ex-spouse, Social Security will contact you regarding potential benefits as a divorced spouse. We hope this helps!

      • Bruce

        Hi Vonda.
        I am 15 years younger than my ex-spouse. I was married for 13 years. She is now of full retirement age. I am lacking all the credits for my own account as I took care of the household for many years. Though she is currently receiving benefits due to our age difference: 1. Must I wait (15 yrs) until I am of retirement age to receive ex spouse benefits? 2. How do I calculate the combined benefits i will in the future? 3. Is there a way for me to access the statement of my ex-spouse to calculate benefits now or in the future when I reach retirement age? If she passes away before I do (as our age differs by 15 years) will our continue to receive the ex-spouse portion of the benefits after she dies?

        • Vonda

          Thanks for your questions, Bruce. If you are divorced, you can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried) if:

          – Your 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-spouse’s work.
          – Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

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

          If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who died and you are not married, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower. For more information, please visit our Surviving Divorced Spouse webpage.

  3. Robin Gomes

    My ex passed away 15 years ago I retired 5 years ago his wife passed away this passed December. I have received his ss when I retired. This may sound cold but since both have passed on would my ss benefits go up?

  4. Shell

    Can you receive your ex spouse retirement and disability at the same time

    • Vonda

      Hi Shell, thanks for using our blog. For you to qualify for divorced spouse’s benefits, you must be 62 years old. Once you turn 62, you may qualify for additional divorced spouse’s benefits if your own disability benefit is less than half of your ex’s benefit benefit. Check out our Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse web page for more information. We hope this helps!

  5. Kristen

    I have read many pages on your website regarding my many questions, but still need clarification. My apologies in advance for the many questions.

    My ex-spouse and I will reach early retirement age the same year-he three months earlier than me and will at that time have been divorced for 5 years after 34 years of marriage. I am not remarried but he is. To receive his benefit, do I need to wait the three months until I reach early retirement age after him to apply or can I apply when he becomes eligible? Do I need to wait until he actually retires to receive the benefit? And can I receive his benefit until I reach full retirement age and then begin receiving my own full retirement age benefit five years later or would I receive a reduced benefit because I received his early? If receiving his early age retirement benefit, would I be limited to how much I can earn from working? And finally the last question, after reaching full retirement age and receiving my own benefits, is there a limit as to how much I can earn?

    Thank you in advance for your time and response.

    • Vonda

      Hi Kristen, thank you for 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.

      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.

      To inquire about potential benefits on your ex-spouse’s record, 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.

      • Kristen

        Thank you very much for all of the great information you’ve provided. I greatly appreciate it!

  6. Romona Whitehouse

    If you move in with ex husband and been divorced for 15 years and move in and pay my own expenses, will this effect my social security disability benefits.

    • Vonda

      Hi Romona, thanks for using our blog. If you’re receiving Social Security disability (SSDI), your living arrangement has no effect on your benefit. However, if you’re receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, a needs based program, a change in your income, assets and living arrangement can affect your benefits and it must be reported. 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.

  7. Melody

    I already receive ssdi benefits….my ex husband just started his retirement this past December 2020. Do I have to be 62 in order to get his benefits? Will the greater of the two be the amount I receive? We were married for close to seventeen years divorced for over ten….

    • Vonda

      Hi Melody, thanks for using our blog. For you to qualify for divorced spouse’s benefits, you must be 62 years old. Once you turn 62, you may qualify for additional divorced spouse’s benefits if your own disability benefit is less than half of your ex’s full retirement benefit. Check out our Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse web page for more information. We hope this helps!

  8. Mary C

    Hello, I am eligible to retire April 1 at my full retirement age. I have been divorced for many years, married for 10 yrs, 1 month. My ex is 70, we both never remarried. I am curious about your reply to Barbara re: if ex spouse is collecting SS and listed you as ex spouse, she would be contacted by SS re: her own benefits. When does that happen? My ex has been collecting for some time now and I have never been contacted. Thank you

    • Vonda

      Hi Mary, thanks for using our blog. We will always pay your own retirement benefit first. If 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, keep in mind that a divorced spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of your ex’s full retirement amount (not their reduced benefit amount). So, you will only receive additional divorced spouse’s benefits if your own full retirement benefit (not a reduced benefit) is less than half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit.

      To inquire about potential benefits, you can call 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.

  9. Mary C

    Hi. Thank you, but you didn’t answer the question re: my being contacted when my ex applied for his benefits.

    • Vonda

      Hi Mary. To inquire on potential benefits, please 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.

  10. monica

    I contacted manuka for urgent help to save my marriage my surprise about this priest in less than a week my went back to the court and cancel the divorce by his self call me to come back home there’s no need for the divorce anymore. The reason am now is to appreciate what priest manuka has done for my life with the reunion love spell he did for me. I will also his contact information here. ( lovesolutiontemple1@ gmail. com )

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