Am I eligible for my ex’s Social Security?


Q. I am 65 and currently receiving disability. I am entitled to my ex-husband’s Social Security? Can you explain the process?
— Divorced

A. Exactly how it works will depend in part on both of your earnings histories.

Generally, Social Security pays the highest monthly cash benefit for which a person qualifies at the time that he or she files an application, said Everett Lo, a spokesman for Social Security.

He said if a person later becomes eligible for a potentially higher benefit, he or she should call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 so the agency can help compare both benefits to determine which would be the higher.

In terms of benefits in the case of divorce, the rules are very specific.

You must have been married for 10 years or longer to receive benefits on your ex’s record. To be eligible, you must be unmarried, 62 or older, your ex must be entitled to receive Social Security retirement or disability and, importantly, “the benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work,” according to Social Security.

It says your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (or disability benefit) if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age, and the benefits do not include any delayed retirement credits your ex-spouse may receive.

If your ex-spouse hasn’t yet applied for benefits but would qualify for them, you can receive benefits on their record if you have been divorced for at least two years, Social Security said.

If you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record and on your divorced spouse’s benefits, you’d receive the retirement benefit first. Then if the benefit on your ex-spouse’s record is higher, you will get an additional amount on your ex-spouse’s record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.

For more on how the benefits work, visit Social Security’s website.

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