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Social Security and Divorce

What happens to your benefits after a split?

  • If you are 62-plus, were married 10-plus years and are currently unmarried, and not entitled to receive a higher benefit based on your own work, you can receive Social Security benefits based on your ex's earnings, even if he or she remarried.
  • If you both worked, generally the lower earner may receive benefits based on the higher earner's work.
  • If you never worked, you can collect benefits on your ex's work, and your ex is still eligible to collect what he or she has earned over the years.
  • If your ex hasn't yet applied, but qualifies for benefits, you can still receive benefits if you have been divorced two years.
  • You can collect a divorced spouse's benefit without reducing the amount of your ex's benefit.
  • The longer you can wait to collect divorced spousal benefits — up to your full retirement age — the higher your benefit will be.

For more information, call 1-800-772-1213 or go to

You may also like: Let your voice be heard on the future of Medicare and Social Security.

Sally Abrahms, coauthor of What Every Woman Should Know About Divorce and Custody, writes about boomers and aging.

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