Many of my divorcing clients have asked me about what happens to their Social Security benefits after they are divorced. I asked Aviva Pinto, the Managing Director of Wealthspire Advisors and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, to answer the following questions regarding divorcees receiving Social Security benefits.
1. Am I entitled to Social Security when I get divorced?
If you worked and contributed to Social Security during your working life, you are entitled to your Social Security payments based on your own earnings history.
If you worked but earned less than your spouse, or did not work, and:
a. The marriage lasted at least 10 years.
b. You have not remarried.
c. You are at least 62 years of age.
d. Your ex-spouse is entitled to collect Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
then, the lower-earning spouse is entitled to a portion of their ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits. These benefits do not impact the worker spouse’s Social Security payments; rather, they will continue to receive 100% of their benefit.
2. When can I claim Social security benefits?
If your former spouse is already claiming benefits and you are at least 62 years of age, you can claim immediately. If your former spouse is not yet collecting benefits, after you reach 62 years of age, you can claim after being divorced for at least 2 years.
If your ex is deceased and you qualify for survivor benefits on his or her record, you can claim these as early as age 60, and switch to your own benefit (if applicable) later.
If you are entitled to your own Social Security benefit, were born before Jan. 2, 1954, and delay filing until 67, you can file a "restricted application" for the ex-spousal benefit, and file your benefit when you are 70. This will increase your own benefit by 8% for each year you delay, up to age 70.
If you were born after Jan. 1, 1954, you have to file for your own benefit first, even if you have reached full retirement age.
If your ex is deceased and you qualify for survivor benefits on his or her record, you can claim as early as age 60, in most cases —and switch to your own benefit later.
3. How much am I entitled to?
The divorcing spouse is entitled to a maximum of 50% of their former spouse’s benefit. You can receive the maximum if you file at full retirement age (67). Benefits will be reduced if you claim before you reach 67.
If you are already receiving Social security based upon your own work record, you can also claim any ex-spousal benefits you are eligible for, but you will only receive whichever amount is higher.
If you claim benefits before full retirement age (67) and your former spouse is living, you will always collect benefits on your own record first. If you are eligible for a higher payment on the ex-spouse's record, you will receive a combination of benefits equal to the higher amount. Claiming early will permanently reduce both benefits.
4. What happens if I remarry?
If you remarry, you are required to report marital status changes to Social Security and the benefits will end.
If your ex-spouse is deceased, you can remarry and continue collecting survivor benefits as long as you were 60 or older when you remarried (50 or older if you are disabled).
You can also receive widow benefits from a prior marriage that ended in widowhood.
A divorced person who had multiple marriages can receive a divorced spouse benefit (from the most recent marriage) surviving divorced spouse benefit, or widow/widower benefit.
5. Who should I speak to about my Social Security benefits?
In order to maximize your entitlement to Social Security benefits, and to determine when to apply for these benefits, speak to your financial advisor or accountant. Your divorce attorney should also be aware of your expected Social Security payments in order to properly plan for your financial future.
* * *
Aviva Pinto is a Managing Director of Wealthspire Advisors. She is a CDFA® (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) and CDS™ (Certified Divorce Specialist). Aviva works with divorcing clients to determine the most appropriate course of action for their financial assets and to plan for their best financial future. For more info, you can contact Aviva at
Wealthspire Advisors LLC is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary company of NFP Corp.
This document is not intended to constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or a solicitation. Any communication from Wealthspire Advisors is not a substitute for obtaining legal, tax or accounting advice from a qualified attorney, tax or accounting advisor. You should not act upon any such information without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel, tax or accounting advisor with respect to your specific situation.