How Does a Divorce Affect an Individual's Social Security Benefit?
Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®
Updated on August 16, 2021
Social Security Benefit With a Divorce
Social Security benefits constitute a major portion of income for most retirees in the U.S. today.
And some of those benefits are available to divorced people as well.
In fact, if you are divorced, either you or your ex-spouse may be able to collect higher benefits than either of you could otherwise.
Read on to find out the Social Security rules for divorcees.
The first thing that you must understand is that you are not necessarily entitled to additional benefits if you have been divorced.
There are a few conditions that you have to meet.
The first applicable factor is how much you make compared to your ex-spouse.
If you make more than your ex-spouse, then you will not be able to collect any additional benefits.
This is true even if you haven’t filed for your benefits yet but are expected to receive more each month than your ex.
But if you are getting less each month than your spouse, then you may be able to collect an additional benefit based on your ex-spouse’s work record.
If you are receiving a lower benefit than your ex-spouse, then there are a couple of additional characteristics that you’ll have to meet.
One of them is that you have to have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years.
Another is that you must currently be single, although your ex-spouse may be married again by now.
You also have to be at least 62 years old in order to qualify for any additional benefits.
Ex-Spouse Divorce Benefits
If both you and your ex-spouse are now old enough to file for benefits but have not done so yet, then you can go ahead and file for your benefits based on your ex’s work record as long as you have been divorced for at least two years.
And if you are able to collect benefits based on your own work record, then that money will be paid to you before any additional benefits are paid out.
Then if it is determined that you are eligible for an ex-spousal benefit, you will receive that amount on top of your own benefit each month.
The exact amount that you receive will depend on the age at which you file for Social Security benefits.
If you file at age 62, then you’ll receive less than you would get if you waited until you reach your full retirement age.
If you wait until you reach your full retirement age, then you’ll receive half of the benefit that your ex-spouse would be entitled to if he or she files for benefits at their full retirement age.
It should also be noted that the higher-earning ex-spouse’s benefits are not affected by having their ex claim benefits based on their own benefit.
For example, if you are divorced and remarried and receive a higher monthly benefit than your ex, and your ex qualifies to file for benefits based on your own benefit, then your benefit will not be reduced as a result of this.