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Social Security Benefits And Divorce

How Will A Divorce Affect Your Social Security Benefits?

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I’ve spent hours scouring the internet to pull together the most relevant information on social security and divorce. I’ll give you the highlights, and the links to dig down into the nitty-gritty details.

First, how much of a benefit can you receive? At most, your benefit will be 50% of what your ex-spouse would receive at their full retirement age, if this amount is larger than what you could receive based on your own work record.

Additional details are below.

1. If You Are Divorced and Were Married Over 10 Years

Couple standing on wooden docks
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If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse's record (even if he or she has remarried).

You must also meet the following criteria:

  • You are currently unmarried.
  • You are at least age 62.

(There are exceptions to the criteria above if your ex-spouse is deceased.)

If you collect benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record, it will not reduce or affect their benefit in any way.

If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you may still apply as long as you meet the other criteria, and have been divorced for at least two years.

2. Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse

Benefits for Ex-Spouses
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If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried), if they meet the criteria in the section above.

The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on your work record must be greater than the benefit he or she would receive based on their own work record.

Numerous ex-spouses may be entitled to receive benefits based on your record, if you were married to each for at least ten years. If they collect benefits based on your record, it will not affect your benefit.

If you have not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, your ex-spouse can receive benefits on your record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

3. If You Are the Worker's Surviving Divorced Spouse

Survivor Benefits for Ex Spouses
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If your ex-spouse is deceased, there are a few exceptions to the criteria in the sections above:
  • If you remarry after age 60, and your ex-spouse is deceased, you may still be eligible for a benefit under their record.
  • If your ex-spouse is deceased, you may apply for benefits based on their record at age 60.
  • The only exception to the ten year length-of-marriage rule occurs if your ex-spouse is deceased, and you are caring for a disabled child, or child under the age of 16, who is also a child of theirs, who is receiving social security benefits based on their record.

These criteria are spelled out, along with links to information for widows and widowers in this section of the social security website.

4. When Do Benefits For Ex's End?

When Benefits End
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This section of the Social Security website provides detailed criteria on all of the potential scenarios that could cause a spouse’s or divorced spouse’s Social Security benefits to end - the most common reasons being because you get remarried before or 60, or because of death.

Of course it also spells out the exceptions to those scenarios, and often, even though the spousal benefit may end, you may simultaneously become eligible for a widow or widower’s benefit when your ex passes away.

5. How Old Do You Need to Be to Collect After Divorce?

Social Security at 62
JohnniePakington/Photodisc/GettyImages

You must be age 62. (If your ex-spouse is deceased, you may be eligible for survivor benefits at age 60.)

Your ex- spouse must be entitled to receive social security benefits, but if they have not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you may still apply on their earnings record as long as you meet the other eligibility criteria, and have been divorced for at least two years.

6. How Old Does You Ex Have to Be?

Social Security Age for Ex Spouse
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 Many people look at some of the claiming rules for current spouses and assume the same rules apply to ex-spouses. The rules are quite similar, but a few of the rules are different. Your ex must be 62 for you to claim an ex-spousal benefit, but it can get confusing if your ex is younger than you are. The article at the link above goes into more detail.

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