Can I get Social Security benefits from my ex-wife?


Q. I’m 46 years old. I’ve been divorced for two years after 23 years of marriage. I have been on SSDI for about three years. My ex-wife is a year younger than me. When I reach full retirement age, if I’d be better off claiming spousal benefits but if she’s yet to retire, is there anything I can do?
— Could use the cash

A. Several items come into play when it comes to determining eligibility for Social Security spousal benefits.

As a divorced spouse, you can receive retirement benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record if you meet and maintain certain conditions.

For starters, your marriage lasted 10 years or longer and you must have been divorced for at least two continuous years, said Amber Leach, a certified divorce financial analyst with Equitable Advisors/R.I.C.H. Planning Group in Morristown.

You must also remain unmarried and be 62 or older, she said.

Also, the benefit that you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s record must be more than what you would receive based on your work, and your ex-spouse would have to qualify for Social Security retirement or disability benefits and be age 62 or older, she said.

“It does not matter if your spouse remarries, only if you are married at the time of claiming your retirement benefit,” she said. “Any benefit you receive will not lower or impact their benefit.”

You can only receive the highest benefit available to you at the time you claim your benefit, Leach said.

“Your SSDI will automatically convert to retirement benefits at the same amount unless you call to see if you can claim higher retirement benefits based off of your ex-spouse’s record,” Leach said. “If half of their retirement benefit is higher than the full amount of yours, then it would make sense to switch.”

The best way to get the answer on the specifics of your eligibility is to call Social Security directly at (800) 772-1213 or visit

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This story was originally published on June 6, 2022. 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.