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Everything You Should Know About Claiming Social Security Divorced-Spouse Benefits

Everything You Should Know About Claiming Social Security Divorced-Spouse Benefits

Claiming Social Security divorced-spouse (or ex-spouse) benefits is important for several reasons:

  • First off, it can provide a financial lifeline to individuals who may otherwise struggle to find their financial footing. 
  • Secondly, ex-spouse benefits can be an important source of long-term financial stability for those going through a divorce. The benefit pays out in monthly installments over an extended period of time, providing recipients with greater security than traditional lump-sum payments received from settlements and judgments.
  • Lastly, claiming Social Security divorced-spouse benefits can help protect against future financial hardship by providing an additional layer of support when needed most. 
By taking advantage of these benefits, divorcées can gain access to additional funds they are rightly entitled to. If you find yourself needing to determine your eligibility for potential ex-spouse benefits, here is what you need to know. 

Are you eligible to receive Social Security spousal benefits if you get divorced?

Yes, if you meet the following criteria:

  • Your marriage lasted at least 10 years;
  • You have not remarried;
  • You are at least 62 years old;
  • Your ex-spouse is able to collect Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and  
  • You have been unmarried for at least two consecutive years before collecting Social Security spousal benefits from a former spouse.

Are you eligible to receive divorced-spouse benefits if your marriage lasted less than 10 years?  

If your marriage lasted less than 10 years, any spousal benefits are unavailable.

How much should you expect to receive in divorced-spouse benefits?

If you were married to your spouse for at least 10 years, the maximum you can receive in divorced-spouse benefits is 50% of your former partner's primary insurance amount — the monthly payment he or she is entitled to at full retirement age (FRA).

  • To file for the maximum amount (50%) of divorced-spouse benefits, you must be at full retirement age (65 years old).
  • If you claim earlier (from ages 62-64 years), the benefit amount is reduced to as low as 32.5% of your ex's full benefit.

What happens if you remarry?

  • Once you remarry following a divorce from your first spouse, you will no longer have the option of receiving spousal benefits from your first marriage.
  • However, if your new marriage ends due to death or divorce, you may become eligible to collect Social Security spousal benefits once again after two consecutive years of being single.

What is the earliest you can apply for divorced-spouse benefits?

The earliest you can apply for divorced-spouse benefits is three months before your 62nd birthday.

How do you file for Social Security ex-spouse benefits?

You can file for Social Security ex-spouse benefits the following ways:

In order to be eligible, you may need to provide the following documents:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status,
  • A marriage certificate, and
  • A divorce decree.
Your former spouse does not have to be collecting his/her retirement benefits yet for you to claim ex-spousal benefits. If this is the case, the divorce must be at least two years old: however, there is no requirement if your ex is already receiving benefits.

Can I collect Social Security as a divorced spouse and wait to claim my own retirement benefit?


In most situations, no, you cannot. You can only file a “restricted application” to claim ex-spousal benefits alone and postpone claiming your retirement benefits if: 

  • You were born before Jan. 2, 1954, 
  • You were married for at least 10 years to your former spouse,
  • You are currently unmarried, and 
  • Your ex-spouse has filed for his/her own Social Security benefits, or your ex-spouse is at least 62 and you have been divorced at least two years.


  • Claiming both your benefits and divorced-spouse benefits - If you are already receiving your own retirement benefits, you can also claim the ex-spousal benefits you are eligible for, but Social Security will not pay you both combined. You will only receive whichever amount is higher and no more.
  • Divorced-spouse benefits affecting current spouse benefits - Any benefits you receive as a divorced spouse do not affect Social Security benefits paid to your ex or to their current spouse if they have remarried.
  • Survivor benefits - If your ex-spouse is deceased, you may be entitled to survivor benefits, under different eligibility rules.

Final Points

Social Security ex-spouse benefits require a lot of paperwork and typically take time to process and be approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Thus, it is recommended that individuals who are going through a divorce consult with a qualified attorney or financial advisor before submitting any information to the SSA. You want to make sure that all of the required documents and forms are completed accurately and timely to receive the Social Security divorced-spouse benefits you are eligible for.

Questions and/or interested in how this applies to your financial life?

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