Collecting a Former Spouse's Social Security Benefits

Collecting a Former Spouse's Social Security Benefits

A financial component that many overlook in a divorce settlement is Social Security. Based on your ex-spouses work history and the extent and length of your marriage, you may be able to collect from their benefits. It is important to keep in mind that there are stipulations on qualifications and timing.

Eligibility for a Former Spouse's SS Benefits

You will need to make sure that all qualifications within the marriage are met before filing for a former spouse's benefits. While there are some exceptions to these qualifications, they are general guidelines that determine eligibility collecting benefits.

In order to qualify, you must meet the following qualifications:

  • Marriage lasted 10 years or longer
  • Currently not married
  • Age 62 or older
  • Benefit from work record must be less than that of the former spouses
  • Divorced for 2 or more years

Collecting on a former spouse's benefits does not reduce the amount that they, or any of their other partners, will be able to collect.

Eligibility Exceptions

There are two major eligibility exceptions when collecting benefits. First, if a former spouse has passed away, 100% of their Social Security payout can go to a former spouse without affecting the payout amount of any other person. Remarriage rules are different in this case; a person must have been older than 60 when they remarried in order to qualify.

There is a second exception. If a person is caring for a child under the age of 16 or disabled and is receiving benefits due to the former spouse, the length of marriage rule does not apply.

Time is of the Essence

If eligibility requirements are met, it may make sense to file for a former spouse's Social Security benefits. You can obtain up to 50% of what the spouse is eligible to receive.

If the benefit is claimed before full retirement age, which is currently 66 years of age, 7-8% from the eligible amount may be deducted for each year leading up to the retirement age. If you wait to collect until the full retirement age, you can claim the full amount. If a person has their own benefits coming in retirement, they can hold off on collecting those to accrue a higher payout and collect their former spouse's in the meantime.

Deciding to collect Social Security benefits from a spouse is a personal decision that can help boost individual income. You will need to take a look at your overall financial situation and living situation in order to determine if this option is right for you.