Are you eligible for Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record?

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2022 | Divorce

As retirement nears, it is common to think about your retirement savings and how much longer you’re going to work. If you are divorced and haven’t remarried, you may be able to benefit from an additional source of income.

There’s one source of income your ex-spouse can possibly provide for you – and it won’t take anything away from them. You may be able to get Social Security spousal benefits even though you’re divorced. Spousal benefits are based on the work record of your ex-spouse. It pays up to 50% of their own benefit amount if you’ve reached your Full Retirement Age (FRA) under Social Security rules. If you haven’t reached FRA, it will be less.

Qualifying for spousal benefits

To qualify for spousal benefits on the record of an ex-spouse who’s still alive, you must:

  • Be at least 62.
  • Have been married to your ex for at least 10 years.
  • Have been divorced for at least two years.
  • Be unmarried.

Further, your own Social Security retirement benefits must be less than the spousal benefit would be. That requirement means that many people won’t qualify, since their own Social Security benefits are higher than the 50% or lower spousal benefit.

What about survivor benefits?

If your ex is no longer alive when you reach your 60s, you may be able to qualify for Social Security survivor benefits, which can pay at a rate of 100% rather than 50% or less. To qualify for these, you must:

  • Be 60 years old.
  • Have been married to your ex for at least 10 years.
  • Not have remarried before you turned 60.

Social Security rules are nothing if not complex and confusing. Before you decide to take advantage of either of these benefits, it’s wise to talk with a financial advisor and perhaps your family law attorney.

If you’re in the process of divorce and your spouse is trying to claim that these benefits can count as a form of alimony, remember that getting benefits based on someone else’s work record takes nothing away from their own benefits. Your attorney can help you seek the support you need.