What happens to the Social Security benefits of a divorced spouse? Here are the things you need to know:
In this article:
The Social Security Benefits for Divorced Spouse
Let me tell you a little story about “Linda.” Recently Linda hired me to advise her on creating a Social Security claiming strategy.
Linda plans to retire next year, and is really concerned about running out of money. Now, Linda has a savings, and she’s got a 401(k), a fully funded HSA, and a couple of other investments that will provide her additional revenue.
But, she doesn’t think it will be enough for her to maintain her current lifestyle — even with Social Security. During our conversation, she revealed a game-changing event in her life.
Linda told me she had been unhappily married to a dentist for 15 years, and never remarried after they got divorced. That’s all I needed to hear!
Turns out, Linda’s unhappy marriage is worth an additional $300 a month in Social Security income.
Does Linda’s story sound like yours?
If so, then this is the right place for you. Learn how Linda increased her benefits as a divorcee, and how you can do it, too!
Until Death Do You Part — Except in Retirement
Many people don’t know this, but Social Security provides divorced spousal benefits. A divorced spouse can collect a Social Security retirement benefit on the work or employee record of their ex-husband (or ex-wife) if the following conditions are met:
- You are at least 62 years old.
- You were married for at least 10 years and are unmarried now.
- You’re not eligible for a higher benefit based on your own work or earnings record.
- You must have been divorced for at least two years.
When I told Linda about the Social Security benefits for divorced spouse, it was music to her ears! Without her ex-husband’s benefit, she’d be looking at a $1,127 Social Security payout.
But, her ex-husband’s benefit will allow her to get about $1,400 — almost $300 a month more than she would get based on her work record alone. If you’re divorced, your spousal benefit could be higher, too!
Here are a few more details you might not know:
1. What Percentage of American Married Couples Receive Social Security Benefits?
Based on the records from the Social Security Administration, 48% of married couples receive Social Security benefits, and 69% for unmarried American individuals. On top of that, spousal benefits also include ex-spouses who got divorced, given they meet the requirements.
2. Can You Take Advantage of the Social Security Benefits for Divorced Spouses If You’re Single After 10 Years from Divorce?
If you’re single after 10 years from divorce, you may be entitled to claim the Social Security benefits for divorced spouse on your former spouse’s work data. But, your ex-spouse should be eligible for Social Security and must be at least 62 years old, too.
3. What If Your Ex Hasn’t Claimed Social Security Yet?
In collecting Social Security benefits, your ex doesn’t have to be receiving the benefits. As long as they are 62 years old and qualify for the benefits, you may still be eligible for the Social Security benefits.
In some cases, other individuals may not want to receive the benefits yet because they could get about 8% more for each year they don’t claim, between ages 62 and 70 years.
If your former spouse has not applied for Social Security benefits, you’ll have to be divorced for at least two years in order to receive the Social Security benefits for a divorced spouse.
4. What If Your Former Spouse Remarried?
A remarriage won’t affect your right to divorcee benefits because your former spouse’s marital status does not matter. Your claim for Social Security after divorce will not have any effect on what your ex-spouse is receiving or his current spouse’s benefits.
5. What Happens If You Decided to Get Married Again?
Generally, you cannot claim Social Security benefits after divorce if you remarry. But, if you remarry and go through another divorce again, you can claim spousal benefits as long as you were married for at least 10 years.
6. How Much of Your Spouse’s Benefit Can You Claim?
A divorced spouse may get up to 50% of their ex’s full Social Security benefit. Of course, it will be less if you take the benefits before your full retirement age.
For example, if your former partner is eligible for $1,500 each month, you’ll get $750. But, if your ex-spouse decides to delay receiving the benefits past their full retirement age, the increase they will get will not apply to your benefit amount.
The cut you get of your ex’s benefit can really be worth a pretty penny!
7. What If My Ex-Spouse Dies?
If you were married for 10 or more years, you become eligible for divorced “survivors’ benefits.” You could see up to 100% of what your ex-spouse was due.
This surviving spouse benefit is available for spouses as early as 60 years old, and 50 if you are disabled.
If you decide to get married again before 60 years old, your eligibility ends, unless the recent marriage finishes. Remarrying after 60 years old will not have an effect with your eligibility.
If you are already receiving Social Security benefits for divorced spouse when your ex-partner dies, you will automatically be switched over to the survivor’s benefit that’s higher.
That’s a decent chunk of change that many retirees could be overlooking!
Now that you know about these overlooked Social Security benefits for divorced spouses, consider discussing all of your options with a qualified advisor. That way, you can ensure you are getting the maximum Social Security divorced spouse benefits you are entitled to.
Linda’s about to live rich on her ex’s Social Security spousal benefits because she has opened up about the condition of her married life. Maybe you can, too, if you think you have the same situation as Linda!
What are your experiences in taking advantage of the Social Security benefits for divorced spouse? How did you overcome the challenges during the process of application? Tell us in the comments section below.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.