Social Security Benefits

It may be possible for divorced spouses to collect Social Security retirement benefits based upon the work record of their ex-spouse's work, provided the divorced spouse:

  • is sixty-two or older
  • is not married
  • was married to the worker for at least 10 years
  • is not entitled to benefits on his or her own or other account, that exceed one-half the wage earner's primary benefit amount

The impact of divorce on Social Security retirement benefits differs greatly from its affect on pension benefits. A worker with a pension is eligible for a particular amount of money in benefits. If the court orders that these benefits be divided between the parties, then the worker's share will decrease.  On the other hand, with Social Security retirement benefits, the eligibility of a divorced spouse has no effect on the amount to which the worker is entitled. He or she will collect that amount regardless of whether he has no eligible spouse or ex-spouse or whether he has multiple ex-spouses all of whom are eligible to collect based upon his work record.

This is one reason that proving eligibility for a divorced spouse is not usually difficult; it does not require an appearance in court or even alerting the worker. All that needs to be done is to present the appropriate documentation to the Social Security Administration. This would include:

  • proof of identity
  • proof of the age of both parties
  • proof of marriage
  • proof of finalized divorce (not separation or annulment)

While the original documents are best, certified copies are acceptable.

A divorced spouse may be eligible for benefits due to a deceased wage earner, if the wage earner was eligible for benefits. The requirements for this situation are similar to those outlined above, except that the surviving divorced spouse must be 1) at least sixty or 2) at least fifty and disabled or 3) be caring for a child who is also eligible to receive benefits on account of the deceased wage earner's account.  The surviving divorced spouse can remarry after age sixty or age fifty if disabled. The amount of the benefit is approximately equal to the wage earner's primary benefit amount. Again, as with retirement benefits, more than one person can collect. Applicants must provide the documents outlined above, along with proof of the wage-earner's death and, if applicable, of disability.