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10 Facts You Need to Know About Social Security Benefits and Divorce

Divorcing later in life, or just trying to plan ahead and get a more comprehensive financial picture? Here are ten things to know about Social Security benefits.

1. A marriage of at least 10 years triggers social security rights.

Ten years is defined as Date of Marriage to Date of Divorce. So, for example, even if you separated with your spouse at eight years, you may still be able to collect social security based on your ex-spouse's record, so long as the divorce was not finalized until you hit that 10-year mark.

2. Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse's full retirement or social security disability benefit

This is assuming you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age. If you begin drawing from social security before your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced.

3. Social security benefits that you (ultimately) receive based on your ex-spouse's contributions to social security do NOT reduce your ex's benefit.

4. You can collect benefits on your ex-spouse's record even if he or she has remarried if you meet some criteria

  • You are unmarried
  • You are 62 years old or older
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to social security retirement or disability benefits

5. Your benefit is based on...

The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work/contributions is less than the benefit you will receive based on your ex-spouse's work/contributions

6. Remarriage can change things

If you remarry, you won't be able to collect benefits through your ex-spouse unless your later marriage ends by death, divorce, or annulment.

7. Even if your ex has not applied for retirement benefits, you still receive benefits based on his or her record so long as you have been divorced for at least two years.

8. Your children might be eligible for Social Security benefits, too.

If you are raising your ex-spouse's child(ren), they can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse's work record while they are under 18 years old, or under 19 and still in high school full time. You may also be able to receive a benefit.

9. If your ex-spouse dies before you, you may be eligible to receive his/her full retirement benefit instead of one half.

10. Your privacy regarding the collection of benefits

Your ex-spouse will not be notified by the Social Security Administration in any way when you begin to receive benefits based on his/her work record.