One of the least understood facts about Social Security is that many divorced spouses are entitled to collect both spousal (your ex is living) benefits and survivor (your ex is deceased) retirement benefits on their ex-partner’s employment record.
This is true regardless of whether your ex has remarried. This can be especially good news for the lower-earning spouse, who then may be able to receive a larger Social Security benefit based on an ex-spouse’s work record than they can on his or her own. Social Security is gender-neutral so the rules apply in exactly the same manner to both men and women. Furthermore, your claim to benefits has no effect on what your former spouse or his or her current spouse (if remarried) receives.
The rules and eligibility criteria for Social Security are complicated, nuanced and vary depending upon which type of benefit you plan to collect, the age at which you begin collecting, your health and family circumstances, and whether you continue to work. There are hundreds of different possible scenarios, so the purpose of this article is to provide a good starting point to determine whether you can increase your retirement income as an ex-spouse.
To qualify for either spousal or survivor Social Security benefits as an ex-spouse, the following basic criteria must be met:
— The marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
— Your ex-spouse is at least 62 and is eligible to receive benefits based on his or her work history.
— You must be at least 62 to qualify for spousal benefits and 60 for survivor benefits
— You are unmarried (there are some limited exceptions to this rule). However, if your current marriage ends as a result of death, divorce or annulment, you would again be eligible.
— You are not entitled to receive a higher Social Security benefit based on your employment earnings.