Social Security Benefits for Divorced Spouses

Are There Still Social Security Spousal Benefits for the Divorced?

Dealing with the government gets complicated sometimes. This is certainly true when standing in line at the DMV for hours on end, but it also applies to receiving benefits such as Social Security or Medicare. Thankfully, not everything the government touches is regulated beyond recognition – Social Security benefits and the rules that accompany them are still rather straightforward. However, they can still get a little complicated; that’s where a thorough explanation could really come in handy. Read on to learn all about your Social Security benefits as a divorcee.

Understanding Your Benefits As a Divorced Spouse

First things first: if you are divorced but had a marriage lasting 10 years or longer, you may be able to receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record. However, you must also be unmarried, age 62 or older, your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security benefits, and the benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work must be smaller than the benefit you would receive based on the work of your ex-spouse. Let’s dig a little deeper and read the fine print. As a divorced spouse, your benefit is equal to half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount if you start receiving benefits at full retirement age. These benefits will not include any delayed retirement credits your ex-spouse might receive. All things considered, you can claim substantial benefits as a divorced spouse so long as the above conditions are met.

However, the situation changes if you remarry. By getting married again, you will probably not be able to collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your latest marriage ends. If your ex-spouse hasn’t applied for retirement benefits but is able to qualify, you can receive benefits on their record if you were divorced two or more years ago.

Mixing Benefits?

So, how does the situation change if you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own but you are also eligible for your ex-spouse’s benefits? In this case, you will first receive your own retirement benefits. If your ex-spouse’s benefits are higher, you will receive an additional amount on your ex-spouse’s record. This is done so that the combination of benefits equals the higher amount.

Keep in mind that for those born before January 2, 1954, you have the option to receive just the divorced spouse’s benefit and delay your own retirement benefit for later. For those born on this day or afterward, the option to take just one benefit at full retirement age is no longer available. In other words, filing for one benefit will effectively file for all retirement and spousal benefits.

Those who continue to work while receiving benefits will still have to abide by the retirement benefit earnings limit. Check out the Social Security Administration’s earnings test calculator to see how your earnings may affect your benefit payments. If you receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, keep in mind that your benefit on your ex-spouse’s record may also be affected.

In case you were concerned that the benefits you get might affect the benefits your ex-spouse receives – or vice versa – rest assured that what you receive will not affect their benefits or their current spouse’s benefits in any way. Lastly, keep in mind that this information, including specific dates, may be subject to change.