How is Social Security Handled in a Divorce?

social security after a divorce
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Going through a divorce is tough enough without needing to worry about social security and retirement. If you’re going through a divorce or recently went through a divorce, you may be wondering what exactly will happen with your social security when you hit 62. 

Divorced couples who were married for 10 years or longer can claim their ex-spouse’s work history for social security. This applies to all marriages that lasted 10 years or longer, although you can only claim one person’s work history for your social security benefits.

If you’re in a situation where you want to collect social security from your ex-spouse, keep reading. This article will break down exactly what you need to know if you plan on claiming your ex-spouse’s work record for social security benefits.

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Can Divorced People Collect Social Security From Their Ex-Spouse?

Divorced people can collect social security from their ex-spouse’s work record as long as they were married for 10 years or longer. Collecting based on your ex-spouse’s record is usually a straightforward process that doesn’t involve courts or require any help from your ex-spouse.

Although divorce proceedings can be long and messy, collecting social security based on your ex-spouse’s work record isn’t. As long as you meet minimum eligibility requirements, you won’t need to involve lawyers, courts, or even your ex-spouse. 

You can go through the entire process independently without having to contact your former spouse. The best part is that they won’t even know you’re collecting.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) won’t contact your former spouse to notify them about your benefits.  Therefore, if your ex is very controlling about where their money goes, you can still benefit from their work history without them knowing.

This is very important if your ex was abusive and violent, as you can safely get their benefits.

How to Check if You Are Eligible to Collect Benefits

The eligibility requirements set up by the SSA are quite simple. To collect social security from your former spouse, you’ll need to:

  • Prove that you were married for at least 10 years before the divorce is finalized.
  • Show that you’re not currently married and your ex is still alive.
  • Be 62 years old or older.
  • Check that your own social security benefits are less than your ex-spouse’s.
  • Be entitled to social security benefits. 

As long as you meet the above criteria, you should have a relatively easy time proving to the SSA that you’re entitled to collect social security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history.

Documents You Need to Collect Social Security Benefits

If you meet the eligibility requirements above, you’ll need to gather some documents to prove it. To start collecting your benefits, you’ll need to provide the SSA with:

  • Proof of US citizenship, permanent residency, or other proof of legal immigration status.
  • Your birth certificate.
  • Your marriage certificate.
  • Your divorce decree or other proof that your divorce was finalized.
  • Your ex-spouse’s social security number.
  • If you had military service before 1998, you’d need to show your US military discharge papers.

Unless any particular circumstances would make your case more complex, you should be good to go when you provide these documents. When you’re ready to apply, you can do so online through the SSA’s Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application portal.

If you have any more questions about your application documents, you can call the SSA hotline at (800) 772-1213.

Can I Collect Social Security If I Am Remarried?

If you’re remarried, you most likely won’t be able to collect social security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history. If you started to collect benefits before you remarried, your benefits would be terminated when your new marriage is finalized.

Unfortunately, your social security benefits will end as soon as your new marriage begins if you were claiming benefits based on your ex-spouse’s employment history. 

There are very few circumstances in which they’ll continue after remarriage:

  • Your ex-spouse is no longer living and you remarried when you were 60 or older.
  • Your ex-spouse is no longer living, you’re disabled, and you remarried when you were 50 or older.
  • You remarry your ex-spouse.

Alternatively, you may continue to receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history if your new spouse is receiving any of the following:

  • Survivor benefits
  • Childhood disability benefits
  • Divorced-spouse benefits

If you or your new spouse don’t meet any of the conditions above, you’ll likely have to part ways with your social security benefits upon remarriage.

Can I Collect Social Security if My Ex-Spouse is Dead?

Divorced spouses can collect social security benefits based on the work history of a deceased spouse. If you started to collect benefits before your ex-spouse’s death, they’d be switched to survivor benefits.

Otherwise, you can request survivor benefits after their death if you qualify.  The SSA states that divorced spouses can get survivor benefits equal to a widow’s.

To qualify for survivor benefits from your deceased ex-spouse, you’ll need to prove that:

  • You were married for at least 10 years.
  • You didn’t remarry before age 60, or age 50 if you’re disabled.

Alternatively, you may be able to qualify for benefits if you’re the primary caretaker of a child under 16 years old.  This only applies if your child was also the natural or legally adopted child of your deceased ex-spouse.

If this is the case, you don’t have to worry about meeting the 10-year marriage minimum to receive benefits.

Key Takeaways

Receiving social security benefits from your ex-spouse isn’t that complicated if you meet some eligibility criteria. Even if your ex-spouse has passed away, you may still be entitled to receive survivor benefits based on their work history. 

To collect social security based on an ex-spouse, you need to prove that you:

  • Was legally married for at least 10 years.
  • Are single or remarried after age 60, or age 50 if you’re disabled.
  • Are at least 62 years old, or 60 if claiming survivor benefits.
  • Your social security benefits are lower than your ex-spouse’s.


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