A Guide to Social Security Benefits After Divorce

Social Security Benefits After Divorce

If you are divorced but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive Social Security benefits on your ex-spouse’s record as long as you meet certain requirements.

Here’s what you need to know about social security and divorce.

How Does Divorce Affect Your Social Security Benefits?

It’s important to understand your projected social security benefits so you can incorporate that into your divorce financial planning .

You should be sure to obtain a social security benefit statement early on to begin preparing for divorce .

If your marriage lasted at least 10 years, you can collect on your ex-spouse’s record if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are unmarried
  • You are age 62 or older
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

If you meet these requirements, you can first become entitled to receive full or unreduced benefits when you reach full retirement age.

Full retirement age will vary based on what year you were born, but in all cases, you must be at least 62 years old to receive benefits.

At full retirement age, the highest benefit you can receive for an ex-spouse’s record is 50%.

What You Should Know About Full Retirement Age

You can retire at any time between age 62 and full retirement age.

However, if you start benefits early, your benefits are reduced a small percentage for each month before your full retirement age.

You will draw benefits for a longer period, but the amount you receive each month would be reduced.

If you were born in… Your full retirement age is
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later 67

If you delay your retirement benefits until after full retirement age, you also may be eligible for delayed retirement credits that would increase your monthly benefit.

Here’s a comparison of how retirement works drawing your own benefits vs. drawing a spouse’s benefits if your full retirement is at age 67

If you start your retirement benefits at age 62, your monthly benefit amount is reduced by about 30 percent. The reduction for starting benefits at age:

  • 63 is about 25 percent
  • 64 is about 20 percent
  • 65 is about 13.3 percent
  • 66 is about 6.7 percent

If you start receiving spouse’s benefits at age 62, your monthly benefit amount is reduced to about 32.5 percent of the amount your spouse would receive if their benefits started at full retirement age. (The reduction is about 67.5 percent.) The reduction for starting benefits as a spouse at age:

  • 63 is about 65 percent
  • 64 is about 62.5 percent
  • 65 is about 58.3 percent
  • 66 is about 54.2 percent
  • 67 is 50 percent (the maximum benefit amount)

Can I Collect My Ex-Spouse’s Social Security?

You cannot collect your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit, but you can collect your own benefits based on their record or earnings if you meet all requirements.

You can file for ex-spouse benefits many different ways:

The earliest you can apply is three months before your 62nd birthday.

If you’re already getting Social Security benefits based on your own work record, you can also claim ex-spouse benefits, but you will only receive the higher amount. You will not be paid the combined amount.

Can I Collect My Ex-Spouse’s Social Security if I am Remarried?

You cannot get remarried and collect benefits on your ex-spouse’s record.

If you receive divorced spouse social security benefits, your benefits end if you remarry .

However, this is offset by the fact that you can collect on your new spouse’s record.

If you do not stay married to your second spouse, then the same rules apply to collecting his or her benefits.

It will not affect your benefits no matter how many times your ex-spouse remarries or if those spouses also collect benefits based on his or her record.

If you get Social Security disability or retirement benefits and you get married again, you should be aware of the following situations that remarriage may have on your benefits:

  • If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and you get married, your spouse’s income and resources may change your SSI benefit. If you and your spouse both get SSI, your benefit amount will change from an individual rate to a couple’s rate.
  • If you receive benefits as a widow, divorced widow, widower, or divorced widower, you cannot get benefits if you remarry before age 60 or if you are disabled and remarry before age 50. If you remarry before you turn 50, you will not be entitled to survivor’s benefits, unless the marriage
  • If you get married again before you turn 60 and that marriage ends, you may become entitled or re-entitled to benefits on your prior deceased spouse’s earnings record. Your benefits begin the first month in which the subsequent marriage ended if all entitlement requirements are met.

Benefits for a child under age 18 or student ages 18 or 19 end if you get married again.

If you get married again after age 60, this does not prevent you from becoming entitled to benefits on your prior deceased spouse’s Social Security earnings record.

Can my Ex-Spouse Reduce my Social Security Benefits?

If you are eligible to receive ex-spouse benefits, your former spouse cannot take away the benefits you or other family members receive.

However, if you get remarried, you will no longer be able to get ex-spouse benefits.

Any fears that you may have regarding eligibility or amounts that could be adversely impacted by an ex-spouse are unfounded.

How Long Do I Need to Have Been Married to Collect my Ex’s Benefits?

To collect ex-spouse benefits, your marriage needs to have lasted for 10 years or more and you must meet other qualifying requirements.

What are the Eligibility Requirements to Claim my Ex-Spouse’s Benefits?

There are several criteria that determine if you are eligible to receive ex-spouse Social Security benefits.

These are general guidelines, but your individual situation may vary and so it’s best to check with Social Security to make sure that you meet the necessary requirements.

  • You must be at least 62 years old
  • You were married for at least 10 years
  • You are not married now
  • You are not eligible for a higher benefit based on your own work record
  • Your former spouse must also be at least 62 years old and eligible for benefits
  • You must have been divorced for at least two years
  • Your spouse does not have to be receiving benefits for you to be able to collect ex-spouse’s benefits.
  • The amount you receive will be no more than 50% of your ex-spouse’s benefit. This is based on benefits they would get at their full retirement age.
  • You can receive a full survivor benefit if your ex-spouse is deceased.
  • You cannot combine your own benefit with an ex-spouse’s benefit
  • It does not matter if your spouse has remarried or not. You can still collect benefits based on their record.
  • If you collect benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record, it does not reduce the ex-spouse’s or the benefits of any current spouse he or she may have.
  • When you file for benefits, the Social Security Administration automatically gives you the larger of your own benefit or a spousal (or ex-spousal) benefit. You cannot choose which to receive.
  • If you collect benefits of any type prior to reaching your full retirement age and continue to work, earning more than the allowable limit for the year, you may owe some benefits back. Once you reach your full retirement age, that earnings limit no longer applies, and you can earn any amount and still collect your benefits.
  • If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce, or annulment).

How Much in Benefits am I Entitled to from my Ex-Spouse?

There are several factors that determine exactly how much of an ex-spouse benefit you will receive, but in general, at full retirement age, you will receive one-half of your former spouse’s retirement benefit assuming you meet all criteria.

If your former spouse is deceased, you will receive his or her full retirement benefit. (Don’t get any ideas!)

Social Security is gender-neutral.

Benefits criteria apply to ex-husbands as well as ex-wives.

When an ex-spouse collects benefits on a former spouse’s record, Social Security does not notify the ex-spouse that this is taking place.

Some of the factors that will impact how much you receive include:

  • Have you reached your full retirement age yet? If you take benefits before your full retirement age, the amount you receive will be reduced.  The age for full retirement gradually increases from 65 to 67 years old depending on the year you were born.
  • If you are raising children you had with your ex-spouse and he or she passes away, you may receive benefits for their care until they are age 16. After that, they may receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record until they are 18 or 19, and still in high school full-time. Older children may receive benefits if they are disabled.

If your ex-spouse has remarried and that new spouse is collecting benefits based on his or her work record, it will not reduce the amount of benefits the new spouse or you receive.

Should I file for Divorce Before my Spouse Starts Receiving Benefits

When you begin receiving Social Security benefits, the SSA will calculate your benefits both as a worker and as an ex-spouse or widow(er).

If your ex-spouse is 62 or older and has not applied for benefits, you may start receiving benefits if you have been divorced for two or more years.

Otherwise, there is no advantage or disadvantage as to when you should file for divorce as it relates to Social Security benefits.

Keep in mind that you must have been married for 10 years or longer, you can’t currently be married and must meet other qualifying conditions based on your personal circumstances.

Pro Tip: The 10-year mark is measured from date of marriage through the date the divorce is finalized . In some cases, it can be smart planning to delay finalizing the divorce in order to meet the 10-year requirement.

Can I Collect my Ex-Spouse’s Social Security Benefits if They are Deceased?

If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits the same as a widow or widower, provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more.

Your benefits as a surviving divorced spouse won’t affect the benefit amount for other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record.

If you remarry after you turn 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivors’ benefits.

If you are caring for a child under age 16 or disabled who gets benefits on the record of your former spouse, you would not have to meet the length-of-marriage (10 years) rule.

The child must be your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child.

Your survivors benefit amount is based on the earnings of the person who died.

The more they paid into Social Security, the higher your benefits would be.

The monthly amount you would get is a percentage of the deceased’s basic Social Security benefit. It depends on your age and the type of benefit you are eligible to receive.

Percentages for a surviving divorced spouse are the same as a widow or widower would receive.  Here are some examples of what that percentage amount might be:

  • A divorced widow or widower who has reached full retirement age or older would receive 100% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount
  • A divorced widow or widower, age 60 will receive up to 99% of the deceased worker’s basic amount
  • Disabled and divorced widow or widower aged 50 through 59 would receive 71½%
  • A divorced widow or widower, any age, caring for a child under age 16 would receive 75%

There may also be a special lump sum benefit payable upon death as well.

Can I Collect my Ex-Spouse’s Social Security Benefits if They Remarry?

Yes, under certain conditions.

You can collect benefits on your ex-spouse’s record, even if the ex-spouse has remarried and even if the ex-spouse’s new spouse is collecting on the same record.

To get these benefits, you must:

  • Have been married for at least 10 straight years
  • You are at least 62 years old
  • Your ex-spouse is eligible for retirement benefits
  • You are currently not married

Can I Collect my Ex-Spouse’s Social Security Benefits if I Remarry?

If you get remarried, you are not eligible for Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record.

If you were drawing divorced spouse benefits while single and then you remarry, those benefits will be terminated.  You are required by law to report your change in marital status to Social Security.

If your ex-spouse has passed away, you could be eligible for survivor’s benefits if the marriage lasted 10 years or more.

You can receive reduced benefits starting at age 60 or full benefits at your full retirement age.

Survivors benefits are equivalent to the deceased spouse’s full Social Security benefit amount.

However, if you remarry before the age of 60, you cannot collect survivor’s benefits (unless your later marriage ends for any reason).

If you remarry after age 60, you can still receive survivor’s benefits based on your former spouse’s record.

Can I Collect my Ex-Spouse’s Social Security if They Haven’t Retired Yet?

If your ex-spouse has not yet applied for retirement benefits even though he or she has reached retirement age but is qualified to do so, you can still apply for ex-spousal benefits.

You have to meet the other eligibility criteria and you must have been divorced for at least two years.

Looking for more great tips on divorce and money? Here are a few of our favorite guides and resources:

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