While a number of conditions must be met, a divorced woman is able to collect Social Security benefits through her ex-husband. The marriage must have lasted at least 10 years and the applicant cannot currently be married. The minimum age to collect benefits is 62, and the ex-husband must be entitled to receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Eligibility

In general, ex-wives are entitled to one-half of their ex-husbands' retirement benefits—unless the spouse is dead, in which case the ex-wife receives his full retirement benefit. If a woman remarries and her second spouse dies, she qualifies to claim benefits from either her first husband or second husband, as long as each marriage lasted at least 10 years. In this case, the benefit received is the highest amount of the two. Some women relinquish their rights to Social Security on their ex-husbands' records by signing divorce decrees. But if a marriage lasted at least 10 years, those clauses are meaningless and are never enforced.

Even if the ex-husband has remarried and even if the ex-husband’s new spouse is collecting on the same record, an ex-wife can still collect Social Security.

However, if an ex-wife remarries before the age of 60, she cannot collect survivors benefits (unless the later marriage ends for any reason). If she remarries after age 60, she can still receive survivors benefits based on your former spouse’s record. However, she must meet the following requirements:

  • The marriage lasted at least 10 straight years
  • She is at least 62 years old
  • The ex-husband is eligible for retirement benefits
  • She is currently unmarried

When Can an Ex-Spouse Claim on a Social Security Benefits

This question is best answered by considering the following example: Let’s assume that Cynthia and her ex-husband Peter were married for 18 years, from 1979, until 1997. On reaching her 63rd birthday, Cynthia realizes that she's nearing retirement. She consequently wonders when she should begin claiming benefits, whose benefits she should claim, and the amount of monthly benefits she will receive, depending on those variables.

One thing is for certain: the longer Cynthia waits to begin collecting, the greater the monthly payments will be, on the benefits she receives from her own retirement savings plan. Furthermore, as an ex-spouse, she may not collect any amount larger than 50% of her ex-husband’s primary insurance amount (PIA).

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If your ex-spouse has not yet applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record, provided you have been divorced for at least two years.

In addition, if an ex-wife is at retirement age and is eligible for both a spouse's benefit and their own retirement benefit, you may have a choice, depending on your age. If you were 62 or older by the end of 2015, you are able to choose which benefit you want at your full retirement age. When workers who are not 62 by the end of 2015 apply for spousal benefits, Social Security will assume it is also an application for benefits on the worker's record. The worker is eligible for the higher benefit, but he or she can't choose to take just the spousal benefits and allow his or her own benefits to keep increasing until age 70. 

If the ex-wife does remarry, she cannot receive benefits on her former spouse's record, unless the new marriage ends (by death, divorce, or annulment).

How Do You Apply for an Ex-Husband’s Benefits

Apply for benefits online by going to SSA.gov, or find the local office and make an appointment. To apply for benefits on an ex-husband’s work record, you need to know his Social Security number or his date and place of birth and his parents’ names. To protect the privacy of all parties involved, the ex-husband is not notified when an ex-wife applies for Social Security benefits on his record.