How does divorce affect my Social Security?

Claiming your social security benefits becomes slightly more complicated after a divorce. The good news is that divorce will not in any way reduce the social security benefits you earned in your lifetime. In fact, a divorce may give you additional opportunities to receive more social security benefits than you would have received based solely on your own personal work history.

Option 1: Receive a Social Security Benefit based solely on your personal work history.

This one is easy. If you are claiming social security based on your own record, the amount you will receive is what you would be entitled to if you had never been married at all. This is based on your lifetime payments into the social security system.

If your marriage lasted less than 10 years, this is the only option you have.

Option 2: Receive Social Security based on your ex-spouse’s benefits or your deceased spouse’s benefits.

You will be eligible to receive social security benefits based on your former spouse’s earning history if:

  1. You were married for 10 years or longer.
  2. You are not currently married. Note that if you remarry after a divorce, you generally cannot collect benefits based on your ex’s earnings unless your second (or third) marriage also ends (by death, divorce or annulment).
  3. You are age 62 or older. Note that if you are widowed, you can start collecting reduced benefits at age 60 as a surviving spouse. If your ex is deceased and you are disabled, you can collect at age 50.

When you apply for your benefits, the Social Security Administration will calculate which benefit generates the highest payment for you. You will then receive the higher amount, whether based on your work history or your ex-spouse’s. You will not receive both benefits.

Note that you cannot collect solely on your ex-spouse’s record unless your ex-spouse is over 62 and you have been divorced for more than two years. When applying, you will need to know your ex’s Social Security number in order to collect on their record. Alternatively, you will need to know their date and place of birth and their parents’ names.

Divorced, Remarried and Widowed?

If you re-married and your second spouse is deceased, you qualify to claim benefits from either your first spouse if that marriage lasted at least 10 years, or your second spouse as long as you were married at least 9 months before he or she died.

More information about divorcee’s social security benefits can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website here:

More information on a surviving spouse’s social security benefits can be found at the Social Security Administration’s website here:

The information on this page is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice.


September 1, 2020