If you are divorced, you may be eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on the earnings of your ex-spouse. It also depends on how long you were married and your age. If you were married for 10 years or more, and your ex-spouse worked and paid into Social Security, you may be able to collect benefits if you're also over age 62.
- A divorced spouse may be eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on the former spouse's work record.
- The marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years and the divorced spouse must be at least 62 years old.
- If the requirements are met, the divorced spouse can receive an amount equal to as much as 50% of their ex's benefits.
- You may elect to receive only your ex's benefits and delay receiving your own as long as you meet certain criteria.
- Divorced spouses must apply for their ex's benefits on the Social Security Administration's website or by making an appointment at their local Social Security office.
How Do I Qualify for my Ex's Social Security?
To collect Social Security benefits based on your former spouse's earnings record, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must have been married to that spouse for 10 years or more
- You must be at least age 62
- You cannot currently be married
- As a former spouse, you must be entitled to receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits at the time the former spouse applies (whether or not the former spouse has actually started collecting benefits)
You can receive benefits on an ex-spouse's record if you have been divorced for at least two continuous years and the ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits but can qualify for them.
Collecting Your Benefits and Your Ex-Spouse's
If you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record, the Social Security Administration (SSA) pays that amount first. If the benefit on your ex-spouse's record is higher, you can expect an additional amount so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.
You can choose to receive only your ex's benefit and delay receiving your own if you were born before Jan. 2, 1954, and reached full retirement age (FRA). If your birthday falls on or after this date, you can no longer take only one benefit at your FRA, which means you file for all retirement or spousal benefits when you file for just one.
But what happens if you continue to work? The same earnings limits apply to you and your ex-spouse. The SSA's retirement earnings test calculator can help you determine how your earnings may affect these payments if you're still working and are eligible for benefits this year.
If your ex qualifies but hasn't applied for benefits yet, you can receive payments based on your ex's earnings record as long as you meet the other requirements and are divorced for at least two years.
How Much Can a Divorced Spouse Get?
A divorced spouse is generally entitled to a Social Security benefit that's equivalent to 50% of the ex-spouse's retirement benefit even if the ex-spouse remarried. If the spouse is deceased, the former partner may be eligible for a survivor's benefit of up to 100% of that amount. In either case, the divorced spouse must have reached your FRA in order to receive the full (50% or 100%) benefit.
If the person files before reaching retirement age, the benefit will be permanently reduced. For anyone applying for the Social Security old-age benefit, you can file as early as age 62, but the benefit amount will be set at a lower amount.
The 10 Year Rule
As noted above, you must have been married to your ex for at least 10 years if you want to claim their Social Security benefits. If your ex was married and divorced more than once, and each marriage lasted the required 10 years, that person is entitled to the higher of the two benefits. But they can't claim both. Even if the former spouse remarries and the new spouse collects Social Security benefits based on that person's employment record, the ex can also collect based on that record.
If you remarry while receiving benefits based on your ex-spouse's entitlement, and that person is still alive, you will no longer be eligible for those benefits. If your ex-spouse passes away, you can remarry and continue collecting survivor benefits on their earnings record, as long as you were 60 or older when you remarried.
How Do I Apply for Benefits as a Divorced Spouse?
You can apply for benefits online by going to SSA.gov, or making an appointment at your local Social Security office. To apply for benefits on a former spouse's work record, you will need to have that person's Social Security number, or date, place of birth, and parents’ names.
When you apply for spousal benefits as a divorced spouse, Social Security will assume you are also applying for benefits on your own work record, and you'll be eligible for the higher amount of the two. If your benefit is lower, Social Security will first pay you an amount based on your record, then make up the difference between that and what you're eligible for on your ex-spouse's record.
How Much Social Security Do You Get From a Divorced Spouse?
A divorced spouse qualifies for half of their ex's retirement benefits. That benefit increases to 100% if the ex is deceased. In order to receive these benefits, the divorced spouse must reach full retirement age to qualify for these amounts.
How Do I Claim my Divorced Spouse's Social Security?
Applications for Social Security benefits, including for a divorced spouse's benefits, must be made online through the Social Security Administration website. You can also make an appointment at your local SSA office. Be sure to have your ex's Social Security number on hand. You can also use their date of birth, place of birth, and their parents' names.
What Is the 10 Year Marriage Rule for Social Security?
The 10 year rule applies to spouses who are divorced and claiming their ex's Social Security benefits. According to the Social Security Administration, you can receive your ex-spouse's benefits based on your own record as long as you were married for at least 10 years.
The Bottom Line
If you were married for at least 10 years, you may be able to collect Social Security benefits based on your ex's work record. If you meet the requirements, you can receive benefits equal to as much as 50% of your ex's retirement benefit. Filing for these benefits is a fairly straightforward process, and to protect your privacy, your ex-spouse won't be notified when you do.