If you divorced after marriage that was 10 years long or longer, you may be entitled to Social Security retirement benefits under your ex-spouse’s record. This could occur if you are at least 62 and receiving benefits under your ex-spouse’s record would be an advantage over using your own record. You get the larger benefit between the two records, not benefits from both accounts.
Social Security retirement benefits are calculated based on your work history or, if you were a dependent, based on your spouse or ex-spouse’s work history. After a long-term marriage, especially one where you were a homemaker or made substantially less than your ex-spouse, it is often the case that the ex-spouse has a longer, more advantageous work history.
You are generally eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits based on your ex’s record as long as you are not currently married to another person.
If you have reached age 62, you can begin collecting Social Security retirement benefits. However, you may find that you get a greater benefit if you wait until at least age 65. For example, if you apply as a divorced spouse at age 65, you would generally receive half the amount of your ex’s retirement benefit.
What if my ex hasn’t retired?
According to the Social Security Administration, you can begin receiving Social Security retirement at age 62 even if your ex isn’t yet retired, as long as they are qualified to retire. In order to qualify for this, you must have been divorced for at least two years.
What if my ex-spouse dies before retirement?
If your ex-spouse has died since the divorce, you may still qualify for Social Security retirement income on your ex’s account as a widow or widower.
Will taking Social Security on my ex’s record reduce their benefits?
The Social Security Administration says no, their benefits will not be reduced by your taking benefits on their record. However, you should be aware that there is an ultimate cap for how much in retirement benefits a single family can get from one account. In general, the retiree and all qualifying family members (including ex-spouses) can receive a total of between 150 and 180% of the retiree’s full benefit.
If you are divorced — or if you are divorcing — it is important to understand that your Social Security retirement benefits could still be derived from your spouse’s work history instead of your own. If you have questions, contact your divorce attorney right away.