Social Security and Divorce

Social Security and Divorce

Previously, we discussed the different reasons why your spouses and children may be entitled to collect on the Social Security disability or retirement benefit payments you receive every month. Here, we explain in more detail how ex-spouse’s may be entitled to some of those benefits as well.

Your ex-spouse can collect on your Social Security benefits if the two of you were married for at least ten years, and your former spouse meets four additional criteria: 1) he/she is currently unmarried; 2) he/she is at least 62 years old; 3) he/she is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and 4) the benefits that he/she is entitled to receive on his/her own work record are less than the benefits he/she would receive based on your work record.

If your ex-spouse remarries, he/she generally will not be able to collect benefits on your record unless that later marriage ends. And if your ex-spouse continues to work while receiving benefits on your work record, the total benefits earnings limit still applies. Your former spouse’s benefits will also be affected if he/she is entitled to receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government work.

In the event that you have not applied for retirement benefits but are old enough to qualify for them, your ex-spouse can collect benefits on your record as long as the two of you have been divorced for two continuous years. Ex-spouses can apply for benefits online or at his/her local Social Security Administration office.

If your ex-spouse is eligible to receive benefits on his/her own work record, Social Security will pay the amount that he/she is entitled to on his/her own record then look to what benefits he/she would be entitled to on your work record. If yours is higher than your ex-spouse’s, your ex-spouse will receive an additional amount so that the combination of his/hers and yours equals the larger amount.

Should your ex-spouse qualify to collect benefits on your work record, doing so will not affect the amount that you receive each month. The maximum amount that he or she could qualify is 50% of your benefits payments, subject to the total maximum family benefit amount.