Social Security Benefits for Divorced Spouses

There is a great deal of confusion around Social Security benefits under the most straightforward circumstances. When it comes to social security benefits for divorced spouses, it's even more complicated.

First, it's important to note that social security is not divisible as an asset in a divorce. However, you may still be able to collect on your ex-spouse's work record. For many, social security is a crucial source of income in retirement, so it's essential to understand the rules for planning purposes.

Related post: What Everyone Ought to Know About Divorce and Retirement Accounts 

Spousal Social Security Benefits for Divorced Spouses

After you are divorced, if you were married for ten years or longer, you might still be eligible for your spousal benefit on your ex-spouse’s record. You're eligible if you meet the following criteria: 

  • You are unmarried, and you are age 62 or older;
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and;
  • 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 your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

The spousal social security benefit that you receive after your divorce does not affect your ex-spouse's benefits.

If you are eligible for benefits on your own record and ex-spouse’s benefits, the Social Security Administration will pay your benefit first. If the spousal benefit on your ex-spouse’s record is higher, you will get an additional amount on your ex-spouse’s record, so the combination of benefits equals the higher amount.

Social Security Benefits for Divorced Spouses After Your Ex Passes Away

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

  • Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse who meets the age or disability requirement as a divorced widow or widower won’t affect the benefit rates of other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record.
  • Survivor benefits can be received independent of individual benefits.
  • Benefits can be taken as early as age 60.

Note: Any benefit taken, whether as an ex-spouse or a surviving ex-spouse,  before your full retirement age, will be permanently reduced. 

Social Security Benefits for Divorced Spouses if You Remarry After Divorce

Social Security benefits if you divorce, then remarry will stop your ex-spousal benefits.  You generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce, or annulment).

However, if you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies and receiving survivor benefits, if you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivor benefits.

Read more about social security and divorce on the Social Security website

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