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Yes. You are eligible to collect spousal benefits on a living former wife’s or husband’s earnings record as long as:
- The marriage lasted at least 10 years.
- You have not remarried.
- You are at least 62 years of age.
- Your ex-spouse is entitled to collect Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
Your former spouse doesn't have to be collecting his or her retirement benefits yet for you to claim ex-spousal benefits. However, if this is the case, the divorce must be at least two years old. (There is no such requirement if your ex is already receiving benefits.)
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The most you can collect in divorced-spouse benefits is 50 percent of your former mate's primary insurance amount — the monthly payment he or she is entitled to at full retirement age, which is 66 and 4 months for people born in 1956, two months later for those born in 1957, and rising incrementally to 67 over the next several years.
How Social Security Benefits Work for Spouses and Survivors
Watch AARP’s free webinar for get answers to common questions about how marriage, divorce or a spouse's death can affect what you get from Social Security. Explore these topics and much more:
- Eligibility rules for spousal and survivor benefits
- Claiming strategies to maximize your payment
- Divorced-spouse benefits and the impact of remarrying
You can get that maximum if you file for ex-spouse benefits when you reach full retirement age. If you claim earlier, the benefit amount is reduced, to as low as 32.5 percent of your ex's full benefit if you file at 62.
The earliest you can apply for divorced-spouse benefits is three months before your 62nd birthday. You can do so online (via an application form or your My Social Security account); by phone at 800-772-1213; or by making an appointment at your local Social Security office. You may need to provide documents to show eligibility, including proof of U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status, a marriage certificate, and a divorce decree.
Keep in mind
- If you are already receiving retirement benefits on your own work record, you can also claim any ex-spousal benefits you are eligible for, but Social Security will not pay you both combined. You’ll receive whichever amount is higher and no more.
- 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.
- If your ex-spouse is deceased, you may be entitled to survivor benefits, under different eligibility rules.
More Social Security Answers