Divorced and Getting On in Years? Don’t Overlook Your Ex’s Social Security Benefits

Where either spouse has a pension or retirement savings, they are not likely overlooked in a divorce.

What is often overlooked by and for younger couples are social security retirement benefits.

But what may have seemed irrelevant or unimportant then, could be relevant and significant now.

Divorce does not terminate a (former) spouse’s right to cash in on their higher earning ex’s social security benefits, at least not if they were married for at least 10 years.

An applicant can collect half of their higher earning ex’s social security benefits. If that higher earning ex has passed away, their surviving former spouse can collect 100% of their benefits.

The one catch is that the applicant must be single at the time they apply for benefits – unless they remarried after turning 60 years old.

The applicant can even collect before their ex starts collecting their own Social Security benefits.

A prevailing applicant is even entitled to collect their bump retroactively by six months.


An applicant can collect Social Security benefits based on their ex’s higher earnings if the marriage was for at least 19 years plus:

  1. The applicant is at least 62 years old and unmarried and their former spouse is currently collecting benefits.

  2. The applicant has been divorced at least two years, their former spouse isn’t collecting benefits and they are both over 62.

  3. The applicant is over 60 and their former spouse has died.

  4. The applicant’s ex delayed taking Social Security until after their full retirement age.

Read more in this Wall Street Journal article by way of Yahoo Finance: Boosting Mom’s Social Security Payments – When a Divorce Pays Off.