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Can I get social security benefits after divorce?

Posted on September 25, 2014Posted By Russell & Hill, PLLCPosted In SSD

Here is a great article written by John Wasik, contributor of Forbes Investing Newsletters, regarding “Getting Social Security Benefits After Divorce”.

Getting Social Security Benefits After Divorce

When you break up a marriage, is it true that you’ll lose Social Security benefits as an ex-spouse? You might think so, but you’re still entitled to them, given certain conditions.

According to Rob Kron in his blog post for BlackRock BLK -0.49%, you need not be married to collect spousal or survivor benefits. Since your spousal/survivor benefits are based on your ex’s earnings history, that’s a big plus, particularly if he/she made more money that you have. Here are some other relevant facts, courtesy of Kron:

  • You can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record even if he/she is remarried.
  • Your decision to collect on your ex-spouse’s earnings history will have no impact on the size of his/her benefits or those of his/her current spouse.
  • Your ex likely won’t know you are collecting benefits off of his/her record. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not provide notification as a matter of course (though the SSA may have to contact your ex for additional information).
  • Married more than once (for at least 10 years each time)? The SSA will see that you receive the highest benefit (as long as you provide the applicable marriage certificates and divorce decrees).
  • One individual can have multiple ex-spouses collecting on his/her earnings history, provided he/she was married to each spouse for at least 10 years.

Of course, anything connected with Social Security can get complicated, so you need to know the restrictions for collecting spousal benefits. In general, to be entitled to spousal benefits, you need to have been married for 10 years or currently unmarried.

Are you afraid that your ex can “cut you off” from your Social Security benefits? Not to worry, notes Kron:

“Like everything else in Social Security, there are complexities involved here, but I can tell you this very plainly: There is no divorce decree anywhere that can preclude you from collecting Social Security benefits as an ex-spouse, provided you’ve met the conditions outlined above.”

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