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Divorce and Social Security Benefits

If eligible, you might be able to claim on your former spouse's work record

Woman reading Social Security form, Divorce and Benefits (Jim McGuire/Getty Images)

If you're divorced, you might be able to claim Social Security based on your former spouse's earnings. — Jim McGuire/Getty Images

En español | Q: My husband and I were divorced after many years of marriage. Can I get Social Security benefits on his work record?

A: Yes, if you meet a number of requirements. To qualify, you must:

  •  Have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years;
  •  Be at least 62 years old;
  •  Be unmarried and not entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own work record.

And there's one other rule to know about: Your ex-spouse must have reached the age at which he's eligible to receive his own retirement or disability benefit. If he's eligible but has not yet claimed his benefit, that's all right — you can still receive your benefit if you've been divorced for two years.

By the way, Social Security's regulations and policies are gender-neutral. Thus, all the rules that apply to a woman asking about an ex-husband would apply equally to a man asking about an ex-wife.

Fun Video: View Don't Touch That! A Nest Egg Rap

Q: What would happen if my former spouse were to die? Would I still be able to get Social Security?

A: Yes. You could receive benefits as a surviving divorced spouse. As always with Social Security, there are certain conditions. These include:

  • You and your ex were married for at least 10 years;
  • You're at least 60 years old, or at least 50 if you're disabled;
  • You're not entitled to a higher Social Security payment on your own record.

Q: But what about remarriage? Would that disqualify me from receiving a benefit as a surviving divorced spouse?

A: It would depend on how old you were when you remarried. If you remarried after age 60 or after age 50 if disabled, you'd be able to collect the benefit. But if you remarried before those ages, you would not be eligible.

Next page: How to apply for divorced spouse benefits. »

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