Your Ex-Spouse's Social Security Retirement or Disability Benefits

After a divorce, you are entitled to receive benefits on your former spouse’s Social Security retirement or disability benefits, if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are unmarried;
  • You are age 62 or older;
  • Your former spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and
  • The benefit (if any) that you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your former spouse’s work.

If you meet all of the above criteria, and you start receiving the benefits at your full retirement age, then your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement or disability benefit amount. If you were born before 1937, your full retirement age is age 65. If you were born during 1938 to 1959, your full retirement age is somewhere between age 65 and age 67. If you were born in 1960 or later, your full retirement age is age 67.

If you have remarried, then you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s retirement or disability benefits unless your later marriage ends due to death, divorce, or annulment.

If your former spouse has not applied for retirement benefits even though he or she qualifies for the benefits, then you will still be able to receive your share of the benefits if you have been divorced from your former spouse for at least two years.

If you are eligible for retirement benefits based on your own work, but your former spouse’s benefits are higher, then you will receive a combination of your own benefits and your former spouse’s benefits that equals the higher amount. If you reach full retirement age, you can choose to receive only your former spouse’s retirement benefits now and delay receiving your lower personal retirement benefits until a later date. If you choose to do this, your personal retirement benefits may become higher over time based on the effect of delayed retirement credits.

Finally, if you continue to work while receiving benefits, these earnings may affect your benefit payments. Also, if you receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security (i.e., government or foreign work), this may affect your benefit payments.

For more information, please talk to an attorney. You may also visit the Social Security website at www.ssa.gov, and click on the Benefits tab.

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