Potential for Social Security Benefits after Divorce

Although you are divorced, you may be surprised to know that you still may be entitled to receive social security benefits on your former spouse’s work record. Even if your former spouse has remarried! However, if you have remarried, you normally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your subsequent marriage ends. According to the Social Security Administration, you can receive benefits if:

• Your marriage lasted 10 years or more;
• You are 62 years of age or older;
• You are unmarried;
• Your former spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and
• The benefits that you are entitled to receive based on your own work record are less than the benefits you would receive based on former spouse’s record.

What if your former spouse hasn’t applied for benefits?

If your former spouse has not applied for benefits, you still may receive benefits on his or her record if (1) your former spouse qualifies for them, and (2) you’ve been divorced for at least two years.

What if you are eligible for benefits?

If you’re eligible for benefits, Social Security will pay that amount first. However, if your former spouse qualifies for a greater amount, you will receive a combination of benefits equivalent to the greater amount (reduced by age). If you have reached full retirement age and you qualify for a former spouse’s benefit and your own benefit, you will have a choice to receive only the former spouse’s benefits and delay receiving retirement benefits until later.

What if your former spouse is now deceased?

If your former spouse has died, you may still be able to receive benefits just as a widow or widower would. Your marriage to the worker must have lasted 10 years or more. If you care for a child who is (1) under 16 or is disabled and (2) is getting benefits on your former spouse’s record, the length of the marriage doesn’t matter. The child must be a natural child of your former spouse or legally adopted by your former spouse.