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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1,820 thoughts on “Ex-Spouse Benefits and You

  1. I married a man who was divorced but he was married to his ex for 28 yrs. The ex is working and my marriage we both work. His divorce papers say she is not able to claim any monies from him (inheritance, etc). Does this also mean she cannot touch his Social Security?

  2. I divorced my spouse in 2008. My age is 63 and 10 mos.
    Question. I am still employed, can I still work and start drawing on my x-spouse’s social security. If so is their a limit on how much I can make?

    • Hi Betty, 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.

      The amount you’re allowed to earn while receiving benefits depends on your age. If you attain full retirement age (66) in 2020, the earnings limit is $48,600 but we only count earnings before the month you reach full retirement age. Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you’re under full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2020, that limit is $18,240. Visit our Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working and our Retirement Earnings Test Calculator.

  3. I am 43 and getting divorced from my husband which is 44 is on disablity can I draw anything from him after the divorce is finalized

    • Hi Michelle, thanks for using our blog. For you to qualify for divorced spouse’s benefits, you must be 62 or older. Also, if you are insured for Social Security retirement benefits, you must file for that benefit first. However, if you qualify for a higher amount on your ex-spouse’s record, you may be able to get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount.

      Check out our Social Security Retirement Benefits Planner for details related to retirement and divorced spouse’s benefits.

  4. I have been holding on the phone for over 2 hours with the Social Security Office to get some much needed help.
    How can I get some help??????

    • Hi Patricia, 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.

  5. Hello,
    I am 63 years old, and was married for 25.5 years to the same man. I am currently receiving social security on my own earnings, which is not much.

    I know that I am able to receive up to 1/2 of his SS benefits at my full retirement age, which is 66 1/2. My question is, if I apply sooner than my full retirement age, what percentage would I receive? I am in need of these benefits asap, but of course I want to receive as much as I am able to receive. Thank you for any assistance you can give to me.

    • Hi Shelby, thanks for using our blog. 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. This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have also applied for the other.

      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.

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