Disability, General, Retirement, Survivors

Ex-Spouse Benefits and You

May 14, 2015 • By

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

A worried woman holds her ring finger- she's been through a divorce.No doubt about it — thinking of an ex-spouse can be emotional. And, if your finances have changed for the worse since the breakup, even more emotions can surface.

We have news that may relieve some of your stress…

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.

There are other rules, of course. You must have been married to your ex-spouse for 10 years or more. If you’ve 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 have been divorced at least two years before applying. After you reach full retirement age, you can elect to receive only the divorced spouse benefits and delay benefits on your own record, which may mean a higher monthly amount for you. If 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 or disability benefit amount.

The same rules apply for a deceased former spouse. The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the benefits your ex-spouse or his or her current spouse receives. If your ex-spouse died after you divorced, you can still qualify for widow’s benefits.

Our Benefits Planner gives you an idea of your monthly benefit amount. If your ex-spouse died after you divorced, you can still qualify for widow’s benefits. Visit Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced to find all the eligibility requirements you must meet to apply as a divorced spouse.

We hope this news adds some joy to the range of emotions you feel when thinking of your “Ex”!


See Comments

About the Author

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. Jeanne F.


    How can I find out the amount I would receive from an ex-spouse who I was married to for 11 years.

    Thank you

    • Vonda

      Hi Jeanne, thank you for your question. 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. Check out our Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse web page for more information.

      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.

      To inquire about potential benefits on your ex-spouse’s record, you will need to 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.

  2. deborah f.

    I was married 9 years, 2 months and had two children. I was the first wife. He passed away approximately 8 years ago. I was wondering if I could get his benefits.

    • Sue

      Hi, Deborah, thanks for using our blog and for your question. To be eligible for divorced widow benefits based on your former husband’s record, your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years. For more details, check out our If You Are the Survivor webpage. We hope this helps.

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  4. Donna f.

    My deceased husband an I were married over 10 years but divorced an remarried in that time. Does that still count? An can I receive benefits before I turn 62?

    • Vonda

      Hi Donna, thanks for using our blog. The 10-year duration of marriage requirement can be met even if the period was interrupted by a prior divorce, provided the remarriage took place no later than the calendar year immediately following the calendar year of the divorce. Check out our policy for additional details and an example. We hope this is helpful!

  5. Mia P.

    I was married for over 10 years. My ex spouse has been able to work and have higher social security earnings.
    I was told I could apply to receive half of why his is worth if it’s higher than my own.
    Does that mean he will only receive half for himself?
    Would he know about it when I apply and receive based on his earnings?

    • Vonda

      Thanks for your question, Mia. 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. This means you must file for retirement benefits.
      – Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

      The amount of benefits you may receive on your ex-spouse’s record has no effect on the amount of benefits your ex-spouse may receive.

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

  6. Richard

    This thread began on May 14, 2015. Today is Jan. 29, 2021. I was born in 1956, married for over ten years, have been divorced for seven years, and never remarried. At my full retirement age of 66 and 4 months, may I:
    a) Collect half of my ex-spouse’s social security benefit from 66 and 4 months?
    b) Then when I turn 70 and 4 months may i switch from collecting my ex-spouse’s benefit, and begin collecting my own benefit which will have grown 8% a year during that time?

    • Vonda

      Hi Richard, 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.

      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.

  7. Li J.

    I am not qualified for my benefits because I do not have enough my own Social Security credits. I can only obtain divorced spouse’s benefits (we were married for 10 years). If I start to collect 1/2 of my ex- spouse’s benefits (when I turn 67), later in the future will I be eligible to I apply as a Social Security ex-spouse’s survivor for higher ex-spouse’s benefits when he dies in the future (ex-husband is in his 80’s now) ?

    Thank you very much for your help.

    • Vonda

      Hi Li, thanks for using our blog. 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.


    Is the qualification date for benefits of a divorced spouse calculated from the legal separation date or divorce date

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