Divorce and Social Security Benefits

May 19, 2014

If you were married for less than ten years, you are not eligible for the “divorce spouse social security” benefit.

However, if you were married for ten or more years, and you have been divorced for two years, you are eligible for this benefit.

If you are an eligible ex-spouse, there are several options and rules to consider. The following is a brief summary of some of the key factors to keep in mind:

  • You can claim both benefits (but not at the same time). For example, it may be beneficial to take the divorced spouse benefit at age 66 (the current Full Retirement Age) and switch to your own benefit when you reach 70.
  • However, if you begin claiming the divorced spouse benefit between the ages of 62 and 66, you do not get the opportunity to restrict your filing and must take the higher of the personal or spousal benefits. If you work during this period, your benefit may be adjusted downward.
  • If you remarry, you are likely to lose whatever benefits you have been eligible for from your former spouse. However, it only takes one year after remarriage to become eligible based upon your new spouse’s income history.


  • If your second spouse dies and you have been married for more than ten years on both occasions, you could be eligible under both former spouses (of course, you can only collect against one).
  • You do not have to wait for your ex-spouse to file for benefits before you are eligible for spousal benefits. If you and your ex-spouse are at least 62 years old, and you have been divorced for at least two years, you have the right to begin receiving benefits.

Before you decide how to proceed, you should discuss your options with your financial advisor and/or attorney. We, at Axley, have the expertise to assist you in making the best decision under your individual circumstances. Please give me a call at 608.283.6737 to discuss any divorce or post-divorce issues.

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