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Social Security Benefits and Divorce

July 10, 2019

We have discovered during our planning process many ex-spouses don’t realize they may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on their former spouse’s earnings record. As part of retirement planning, we review whether or not your benefits are higher than if you filed a claim on your former spouse’s records.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Married at least 10 consecutive years
  • Currently single
  • Former spouse qualifies for Social Security benefits
  • You both must be at least 62 (benefits would be discounted)
  • Divorced at least two years or your former spouse is already collecting benefits

The amount maximum is half of your former spouse’s benefit at Full Retirement Age (FRA). You will receive the higher of benefits based on your earnings record or the 50% of your former spouses’ benefit. Below is the FRA per birth year.

1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 monts
1960 and later 67


Whether your benefit is based on your own earnings record or your former spouse’s, filing prior to your Full Retirement Age results in a reduction of your benefit. For example, if your FRA is 66 and you file at 62, your benefit is reduced by 25%! If your FRA is 67 and you file at age 62, your benefit is reduced by 30%! Needless to say, that’s a steep “pay cut.”


Survivor Benefits

If your ex-spouse dies and you are still single, you may be eligible to receive your former spouses’ full benefits (assumes more than benefits based on your own earnings record).

Please go to www.ssa.gov for more detail


Frequently Questions

  • Do I have to contact my ex-spouse? No.
  • What might Social Security require to file as a divorced spouse? Potential documents may include:
  • Your Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax return
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Can I file a restricted application? Only if you were born prior to January 2, 1954
  • If my ex is remarried, does it impact my ability to get his/her Social Security? No

You can contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.


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