Social Security benefit rules are complex and confusing, and even more so when you get a divorce. It's important for planning purposes that you know what your cash flow will be after divorce, especially if you are over 50. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst will include in cash flow projections related to proposed equitable division and supports the projected benefits you will receive from Social Security (something attorneys don’t do).
Social Security Benefits on Your Ex-Spouse's Work Record
If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse's record (even if he or she has remarried) if:
- You are unmarried and you are age 62 or older
- Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and
- The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work.
If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least 2 years.
The Social Security benefits you receive based on your ex-spouses work record has no effect on the amount of benefits your ex-spouse or his or her current spouse may receive. They won’t even know!
If you are eligible for benefits on your own record and ex-spouse's benefits, the Social Security administration will pay your benefit first. If the benefit on your ex-spouse's record is higher, you will get an additional amount on your ex-spouse's record so the combination of benefits equals the higher amount.
Social Security Benefits When Your Ex-Spouse Dies
If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower, provided your marriage lasted 10 years or more.
- Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse won't affect the benefit rates of other survivors getting benefits on the worker's record.
- Survivor benefits can be received independent of individual benefits.
- Benefits can be taken as early as age 60.
Note: Any benefit taken, whether as an ex-spouse or a surviving ex-spouse, before your Full Retirement Age will be permanently reduced.