For Richer or Poorer: How Divorce Affects Social Security Benefits

Upon retirement, most people are not thinking about how divorce or remarriage may affect their social security benefits. If you are divorced, you may be eligible to receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record and your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record.

Ex-Spouse Benefit Eligibility

If your former marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive one-half (50%) of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age, even if they have remarried, if:

  1. You are unmarried
  2. You are age 62 or older
  3. Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits
  4. The benefit that you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work

Social Security Stipulations

If the eligibility requirements above apply to you, it’s important to know the details and stipulations. If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits from your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends by death, divorce or annulment. If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on their record if you have been divorced for at least two years. If your ex-spouse should die before you, you can receive the full retirement benefit.

You don’t need to call your ex-spouse to see how much their social security payments will be to determine how much you will receive. You can go online to the Social Security’s website or stop by a local office for that information. You will need your marriage certificate and divorce decree before starting the process.

Turning the Tables

The same eligibility requirements apply to your ex-spouse for receiving benefits based on your record. 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.

For more information, please contact an Anders advisor. We can help determine the impact the additional social security funds will have on your tax situation.