Am I eligible for my ex’s Social Security benefits?


Q. I am 69 years old. I turn 70 in June. I started getting Social Security on my own record – I worked for 33 years – when I turned 65. I was married to my ex-husband for 17 years and I never remarried. He did remarry. Now that he’s retiring, am I eligible for some of his benefit?
— Still working

A. You do have options.

If you qualify, you would be allowed to switch to his benefit amount if it’s higher than yours.

There are several eligibility requirements.

You must be age 62 or older, you must have been married to your ex for 10 years or more and you must be unmarried, said Amber Leach, a certified divorce financial analyst with AXA Advisors/R.I.C.H. Planning Group in Morristown.

You also must be divorced for at least two years and your ex must qualify for his own benefits, she said.

If you were born before Jan. 2,1954 and have already reached your full retirement age, then you can choose to receive only the divorced spouse’s benefit and switch to your retirement benefit at a later date, she said.

“You did the opposite — you took your retirement benefits first but if what you are entitled to on your ex-spouse’s record is more than your benefit, then Social Security will let you switch,” Leach said.

This option is not available for those born on Jan. 2, 1954 or later. When they apply, they effectively file for all retirement or spousal benefits available to them.

Leach said the benefit of a divorced spouse is equal to 50% of your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age.

You do not share in any of the delayed retirement credits earned by waiting until age 70. The most benefit you can hope for is 50% of his full retirement benefit or your own benefit — not both.

“You worked for 33 years and if your job paid into the Social Security system, your full benefit may be larger than half of his benefit,” she said.

His remarriage has no effect on your benefits.

You should Social Security to talk about your specific benefits. You can call (800) 772-1213 or find your local office here.

Email your questions to .

This story was originally published on Feb. 19, 2020. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.