Ex-Spouse Benefits and You

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”!

 

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1,840 thoughts on “Ex-Spouse Benefits and You

  1. I was with my childrens dad 16 7an have yeares we were common law married he has never remarried and i have not either i still have hus last name ansicil security gave it to ne without a marrige licence am i still eigible for half of his benifits? We never devorced because we never actully married my name is janet Creekmore my email icreekmorejanet@gmail.com

    • Hi, Janet. In cases where a common-law marriage may be involved, Social Security follows the state laws. To get survivors or spouses benefits you generally must live in a state that recognizes common-law marriage. Please check the laws in your state. For further assistance, you can call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Just a reminder – please be cautious about posting personal information on social media.
      Thanks.

  2. I am on SSI my ex spouse passes away in May of 2019 I was married for right at 11 yrs but I just turned 50 in june I did remarry and he passed away also but would or should I be able to draw off of him
    Bc I could use some choices for health insurance medicaid only is just not many choices of health care providers

    • Hi, Laura. We are sorry to hear about your loss. If your marriage lasted for at least 10 years, your may be eligible for surviving divorced spouse benefits based on your ex-husband’s earnings, beginning at age 60. If you are disabled, you could begin receiving 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. If you have additional questions specific to your case, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., for assistance. We hope this helps.

  3. I am a 73 year old woman that was married to my ex husband for 12 years. We had two children. He passed away in January. I was told I can collect half of his benefits. My SS is very low and I think his musy be more. How do I go about this?

    • Hi, Linda. 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. 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. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  4. I need to reschedule an appointment previously scheduled for today (8-20-20). The appointment was to discuss applying for ex-spousal social security benefits.
    thank you

    • Hi Mary, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. We will always pay your own retirement benefit 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-husband’s full retirement amount (not his reduced benefit amount). So, you can only receive additional divorced spouse’s benefits if your own full retirement benefit (not your reduced benefit) is less than half of your ex-husband’s full retirement benefit.

      Check out our Retirement Planner: Divorced Spouse’s Benefits web page for additional details including how to apply.

  5. If I was married over ten years and divorced. Can I at 62 take my own benefit now and change to 1/2 my ex husband’s benefit when he retires at 65?

    • Hi Rose, thank you for your question. You may be able to get divorced spouse’s benefits but, under existing law, if you are 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.

      However, if you turn 62 before January 2, 2016, deemed filing rules will not apply if you wait to file at your full retirement age or later. This means that you may file for either your spouse’s benefit or your retirement benefit without being required or “deemed” to file for the other. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for details on filing for retirement and divorced spouse’s benefits.

  6. My granddaughter is 18 and starting college. Her dad is terminally ill with cancer. Will she be able to get benefits from her dad after he dies?

    • Hi Linda, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. She may be eligible for survivor benefits if the child’s father earned enough Social Security credits through his work. Unmarried children who are under 18 (up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full time) can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a parent dies. Check out our factsheet on Benefits for Children for more details.

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