Social Security for Divorcees

August 9, 2018


Many people are aware that married couples can receive Social Security based on their spouse’s work record. But what a lot of people don’t know is that divorced individuals can do so too. This option could help increase your Social Security benefits in retirement, although you should be aware of the caveats as well.

How It Works

If you are divorced, you have the potential to increase your Social Security benefits that a single individual would not have. That is because the Social Security Administration will award you benefits based on your work record or your ex-spouse’s, whichever is higher.

If you receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record, you may receive 50% of their full retirement amount. That means, if your own work history has been minimal, you may be able to receive more Social Security income than you would have based on your record.

Rules to Remember

To receive benefits on an ex-spouse’s record, you should be aware of the following rules:

  • To receive the 50% benefit amount, you will need to have reached your “full retirement age.” You can find out more about full retirement age by visiting the Social Security Administration website.
  • You must have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years.
  • You must be unmarried now. If you remarry, you cannot receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record unless your current marriage ends.
  • Your former spouse must be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
  • If your ex-spouse has not yet applied for Social Security, you can receive benefits based on their record provided you have been divorced for at least two years.

A Final Point

Understanding Social Security can get tricky—the rules can feel very complicated. But taking the time to understand how the rules apply to you is important. You will gain a more accurate picture of your retirement income, which in turn can help you build a stronger retirement plan. However, you may find you need the advice of a financial professional who can help you see the big picture of your retirement. Please reach out to us—we’d love to help.

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