Social Security for the Divorced and Widowed

It’s never easy losing a spouse to divorce but when it comes to receiving Social Security Benefits it could certainly have its advantages.

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  • If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried) if:
  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
  • Your ex-spouse is unmarried.
  • Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older.
  • The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on their own work is less than the benefit they would receive based on your work.
  • You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

As a married person, you are always eligible for ½ of your spouse’s Social Security Benefit if it exceeds your own. So basically, if you meet the criteria above Social Security does not penalize you for the divorce. Nice! For women who stayed home to raise a family while their spouse worked, this could be a significant increase in benefits during retirement. It’s worth noting here that your ex-spouse’s benefits are not affected if you receive divorced spousal benefits. For divorced spouses with a younger ex-spouse, you can claim your own benefits as early as age 62 then once your ex-spouse attains age 62 you could move up to ½ of their benefit if it is higher than your own.

What if you meet the above criteria but your ex-spouse has passed away? In this scenario you would be entitled to a divorced survivor benefit which can be as much as 100% of your ex-spouse’s benefit. It’s even possible to claim benefits from multiple ex-spouses.

When you are married and both receiving Social Security Benefits then one dies, the survivor does not get to keep both payments. Rather, they keep the higher of the two. Also, the survivor is entitled to a death payment of $255. If your benefits are not adjusted in a timely manner, you will receive back pay for the month’s you were entitled to but did not receive.

What I want you to take away from this post is that you must be your own advocate. Set up an online Social Security account at if you haven’t already. Applications for Social Security Benefits as well as Medicare are now processed electronically which in theory should reduce mistakes and processing time. Make sure you get everything you are entitled to.