If your former spouse is still living
Your divorced spouse benefits are based on 50% of your ex-spouse’s benefit at full retirement age. You are eligible to start this benefit as early as age 62, but it will be permanently reduced if you start before your full retirement age.
If your own PIA is higher than half of your divorced spouse’s PIA, you will receive your own benefit instead of your spousal benefit. If you wait to file until your full retirement age, even if your PIA is higher, you have the option to restrict your application to just divorced spouse benefits. By restricting your application, your personal benefit will continue to earn delayed retirement credits. Then you can reapply for your social security benefits on your own record at age 70 and enjoy the higher benefit with inflation adjustments for life. This can be a great strategy if your PIA is higher than half your divorced spouse’s and you have enough income to offset the reduced social security benefits until age 70.
You filing for benefits based on your former spouse’s earnings record does not reduce your ex-spouse’s benefit, and the ex-spouse is not notified when you file. You will need to have proof of the marriage and divorce when you apply.
If you’re age 62 or older and you’ve been divorced for at least two years, you can receive Social Security benefits based on your former spouse’s earnings as long as your former spouse is eligible for retirement benefits. It doesn’t matter whether your former spouse has chosen to retire or has submitted an application for Social Security benefits.
If you’re age 62 or older and are caring for a dependent child who is entitled to child’s benefits based on a deceased parent’s Social Security record, then your benefits won’t be reduced currently and will remain unreduced later, after you reach your full retirement age. Bear in mind that you can’t receive a spouse’s benefits prior to age 62, even if you have a dependent child.
If your former spouse has died
You may qualify for survivor’s benefits based on 100% of your former spouse’s social security benefit. If you’re under full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced for each month you receive benefits under your full retirement age. Benefits at age 60 will be 71.5 percent of your former spouse’s PIA.
It’s also important to note that a divorced spouse may be entitled to a mother’s or father’s benefit if caring for the dependent child (under age 16 or disabled) of his or her deceased former spouse. Typically, the amount of a mother or father’s benefit is equal to 75 percent of the deceased spouse’s PIA. Unlike a spousal benefit, it isn’t necessary for the marriage to have lasted 10 years.
How does remarriage of the husband and/or the wife impact Social Security benefits?
If your ex-spouse gets remarried and you don’t, your Social Security entitlement will be unaffected. If your ex-spouse is married to a second spouse for at least 10 years and then they get a divorce, you and that second spouse will each be entitled to collect an amount equal to one-half of the former spouse’s benefits (assuming that you each meet the requirements set forth above).
If you’re the one who remarries, you would no longer be entitled to divorced spouse benefits under your ex-spouse’s earnings record. However, if you don’t remarry until after age 60, you can still claim survivor’s benefits on your ex-spouse’s record if your former spouse dies before you.
This is a complicated area and this article covers many situations that may occur, but not all. Getting advice specific to you is the best way to explore these benefits for your situation!