I’m divorced. Can I get my ex’s Social Security benefits?

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Q. I am divorced from my children’s dad. I’m 64 years old now. Can I receive his Social Security benefits if he were to pass away before me, or if I can draw from his benefits now? I have been receiving disability benefits since 2001 and a friend told me that I was eligible for a part of his benefits.
— Divorced

A. Your friend is correct that you may be entitled to benefits from your ex-spouse.

Here’s how it works.

If a person is age 62, unmarried and divorced from someone entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, they may be eligible to receive benefits based on their ex’s record, said Joseph Sarnecki, a certified financial planner with U.S. Financial Services in Fairfield.

To be eligible, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for 10 years or more, he said.

“If you have since remarried, you cannot collect benefits unless your later marriage ended by divorce, annulment or death,” he said. “If you’re entitled to benefits on your own record, your benefit amount must be less than the benefit you are entitled to on your ex-spouse.”

In other words, Social Security will pay the higher of the two benefits, Sarnecki said.

If your ex has not yet applied for retirement benefits but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits based on the ex-spouse’s earnings record, provided you meet the other requirements and have been divorced for at least two years, he said.

Should you decide to wait until full retirement age to apply as a divorced spouse, your benefit will be equal to half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount or disability benefit.

“Starting before full retirement age will result in a reduced benefit,” he said. “The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the benefits of your ex-spouse.”
You can apply for benefits online by going to SSA.gov or by making an appointment at your local Social Security office.

“You will most likely need to have your ex’s Social Security number or date and place of birth and parents’ names,” he said.

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This story was originally published on Sept. 12, 2022.

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