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10 Social Security Facts About Benefits For An Ex-Spouse

What Kind Of Social Security Benefits Can An Ex Spouse Get?


Mother and son leaving home and father
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  1. The maximum amount of social security benefits you can receive based on an an ex-spouse's record is 50% of what your ex-spouse would get at their full retirement age.
  2. You cannot collect on a living ex-spouse's social security benefit if you are re-married. (You can collect on a deceased ex-spouse's record if your remarriage occurred after you reached age 60.)
  3. If you collect on an ex-spouse's social security benefit and get remarried, benefits based on your ex-spouse's record will stop.
  4. You must be married for at least one year to a new spouse before you can file an application for spousal benefits based on their record.
  5. If you know approximately what your ex-spouse earned, and their date of birth, you can use a social security calculator to estimate their benefit. The only way to find out for sure what your social security benefit based on your ex-spouse's record would be is to ask them what their benefit amount is at their full retirement age (you would be eligible for 50% of that amount further reduced if you file before your full retirement age), or to file an application for divorced spouse benefits. If you call social security to ask them, they cannot tell you.
  6. Your ex-spouse does not have to file for their own social security benefits for you to be eligible to receive a benefit based on their record, but they have to be eligible for those benefits. (They must be at least age 62, the earliest age you become eligible for your social security retirement benefits.)
  7. If an ex-spouse collects benefits based on your record it does not in any way reduce your benefits or your current family's benefits.
  8. If you file for social security benefits before you reach full retirement age, your options will be limited. For example, if you file early, social security automatically gives you the larger of your own benefit, or a spousal (or ex-spousal) benefit. If you file early, you cannot take an ex-spouse benefit and then switch to your own benefit when you reach full retirement age.
  9. If you wait until full retirement age to file, you can then collect on a spousal (or ex-spousal) benefit (you will have to file what is called a restricted application in order to do this), and continue to let your own benefit grow until your age 70. (Your benefit will accumulate delayed retirement credits from your full retirement age to your age 70.)
  10. If your ex-spouse is younger than you, you can collect your own benefit first (because they have not yet reached age 62 so you are not yet eligible to collect on theirs) and then switch to collecting on theirs once you become eligible for theirs (which would be when they reach age 62.) For example, suppose you are age 62 and your ex-spouse is 58. At 62 you could collect a benefit based on your record (but it would be reduced because you filed early) and then at age 66 (when your ex-spouse turns 62) switch to a benefit based on their record, although this would also be reduced because you filed early. This would only be to your benefit if your benefit based on 50% of theirs (and further reduced because you filed early) was going to be higher than your benefit based on your own record. (See another claiming option if your spouse is only a year or two younger in How Old Does My Ex Need to Be?)

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