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Social Security Spousal Benefits After a Divorce

Did you know that if you are divorced, your ex-spouse might be eligible to receive one-half (50%) of your retirement benefit?  And if you should die before your ex-spouse, your ex can receive your full retirement benefit?   Read more here to learn the rules about divorced spousal Social Security benefits for your ex-spouse.

The amount of benefits your divorced spouse receives has NO effect on the amount of the benefit you or your current spouse may receive.  There is no need to discuss this with your ex-spouse because your claim does not reduce or affect your ex's benefit in any way, and vice versa. It is your ex-spouse’s benefit, even if you've been divorced for many years. 

Note the spousal benefit does not include any delayed retirement credits you may receive. Your ex can only receive a benefit amount based on the value of your benefit at your Full Retirement Age (determined based on your birth year). And if your ex claims this spousal benefit before their Full Retirement Age, their benefit amount will be reduced.

To be eligible for a divorced spousal benefit, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried) if:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 consecutive years or longer;
  • Your ex-spouse is unmarried;
  • Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older;
  • The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on their own work is less than the benefit they would receive based on your work; and
  • You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

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.

If your ex-spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on their own record, SSA will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.

If your ex-spouse continues to work while receiving benefits, the same earnings limits apply to them as apply to you. If your ex-spouse is eligible for benefits this year and is also working, you can use the Social Security Administration calculator (https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/RTeffect.html) to see how those earnings would affect those benefit payments.

If your ex-spouse will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government work, their Social Security benefit on your record may be affected.  

How to Apply for a Divorced Spousal Benefit

Your ex-spouse may apply online or in person within 3 months of their 62nd birthday (or later if he/she wishes to receive a higher benefit) using Form SSA-2.  In addition to documents required to collect on their earnings record, your ex will need to provide a copy of your final divorce decree.  https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-2.html

A Final Note: Surviving Divorced Spouse

A divorced spouse of a worker who dies could get benefits the same as a widow or widower, provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more. Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse won't affect the benefit amount for other survivors getting benefits on the worker's record. If your ex-spouse remarries after reaching age 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect eligibility for survivors benefits.


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Best regards,

Janet Rhodes Friedman, CFP®, CDFA®, MBA




The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice and it should not be relied on as such. It should not be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell a security. It does not take into account any investor's particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status or investment horizon. You should consult your attorney or tax advisor. All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability, or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information and it should not be relied on as such.  Financial Planning Solutions, LLC (“Financial Planning Solutions”) is a registered investment advisor. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Financial Planning Solutions and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Financial Planning Solutions and its advisors do not provide legal, accounting, or tax advice. Consult your attorney or tax professional. Representatives have general knowledge of the Social Security tenets. For complete details on your situation, contact the Social Security Administration.

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