Getting Social Security from Your Ex-Spouse

Think hard! There must have been something good that came out of your marriage to your ex-spouse, but for the life of you, you can’t think of anything. Social Security may be the answer.

One of the obscure rules of the Social Security system allows you to receive a Social Security benefit based on your ex’s work history, even if your ex is remarried. As you might expect, there are rules, and not everyone is eligible for the divorced spouse benefit, but it’s a benefit worth knowing about. To qualify you:


  • had to be married to your ex for at least 10 years
  • divorced for at least 2 years
  • you must be at least age 62
  • you have not remarried
  • your personal Social Security benefit is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex’s work history
  • your ex is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits


There is an exception if you have remarried. If your current marriage ends in divorce or the death of your spouse, you will be able to claim on whichever benefit is higher–your surviving spouse’s benefit if your current spouse dies, or your spousal benefit on your ex, as long as you meet all the rules for claiming on an ex’s work record listed above.

If you qualify, your benefit will be 50% of your ex’s full retirement amount when you reach your full retirement age. If you begin receiving a divorced spouse benefit anytime between 62 and your full retirement age, your benefit will be permanently reduced based on the number of months until you reach your full retirement age. A divorced spouse benefit does not include any delayed retirement credits your ex earned by waiting past their full retirement age to begin taking their own benefits.

Even if your ex hasn’t applied for Social Security benefits, as long as they’re eligible, you can receive benefits on their record, and it won’t have any effect on the amount your ex or their current spouse may receive.

And this may be the best part of all. You don’t have to talk to your ex about it. If you qualify for the divorced spouse benefit, everything can be done directly with the Social Security Administration.

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