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Social Security:  Divorced Spouse Benefits

Social Security: Divorced Spouse Benefits

July 26, 2019

When it comes to claiming Social Security benefits, being divorced has it’s own set of rules.  If you have been divorced, read on to learn some essential information that may help you maximize your Social Security benefits.

What are divorced spouse benefits?

Divorced spouse benefits are Social Security benefits that you may claim off of your ex-spouse’s Social Security working record. They are similar to spousal benefits in many ways.  The maximum amount of Social Security benefits you may receive on an ex-spouse’s record is 50% of what your ex-spouse would get at their full retirement age.   The benefit is reduced if you file before you reach your full retirement age.  These benefits do not affect your ex-spouse’s current or future benefits.  He or she can still receive their full benefit.

*Keep in mind that if the Social Security benefit amount that you would receive off of your own working record is greater than what you would get off of an ex-spouse, then you would claim your own benefit instead of the divorced spousal benefits.  You may NOT claim both benefits. 

Are you eligible?

To be eligible to file for Social Security benefits off of your ex-spouse’s record, the following criteria must be met:

  • The marriage lasted at least 10 years
  • You are currently unmarried (unless your remarriage happened after age 60)
  • Both you are your ex-spouse are at least 62 years old when you apply for benefits off of his/her record.

Will claiming divorced spouse benefits affect the benefits of your ex-spouse or his/her new spouse?  

Claiming divorced spouse benefits does not affect anyone but you.  If your ex-spouse is remarried, he/she is still able to receive his/her full benefit and his/her current spouse is still entitled to spousal benefits. 

What happens if my ex-spouse dies? 

If your ex-spouse dies, you are now a divorced widow(er) and you may claim a benefit equal to your ex-spouse’s FULL benefit (if that benefit is larger than the benefit you may receive off of your own working record).   This does not affect a current surviving spouse or any other ex-spouses he/she may have had.  They may all claim benefits off of the deceased’s working record if eligible.  

If you wish to apply for surviving divorced spouse benefits you must contact the Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment as this cannot be done online.