When a couple divorces, there are a lot of questions that are asked concerning retirement benefits, more specifically social security. Some of my clients want to know whether they are able to collect their ex-spouse's social security. The short answer is, yes, so long as you satisfy a number of different criteria. I found the following "Question and Answer" article on this very subject which sheds some light on this issue.
Social Security Survives Divorce
A divorced spouse is generally eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on the ex-spouse’s record of work and earnings, said Lita Epstein, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Social Security and Medicare.
But it’s not automatic; you should contact the Social Security Administration to see if you’re eligible, Epstein said in a telephone interview from her home in Florida.
To be eligible, you must clear some hurdles. Following is a summary of the general rules:
•Your marriage had to have lasted at least 10 years.
•You must be at least 62.
•You’re not married.
•The ex-spouse must be at least 62.
In general, you won’t automatically receive benefits, said Kurt Czarnowski, regional communications director for the Social Security Administration.
“We’re not at the point where you have automatic enrollment in Social Security” in such circumstances, Czarnowski said in an interview at the agency’s regional headquarters in Boston.
So visit your local Social Security office or call the agency toll-free at 1(800) 772-1213. In the interview process, you’ll be asked whether you’ve ever been married, which will lead the agency to see if you’re eligible for benefits based on another’s record of work and earnings, Czarnowski said.
Assuming you’re eligible, you’ll receive a monthly benefit based on your record, or on your ex-spouse’s record, whichever will pay you more, he said.
A few other points:
•If you have been married more than once, and each marriage lasted at least 10 years, you’re generally eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on either ex-spouse’s record of work and earnings — whichever will pay you more, Epstein said.
•If you’re divorced and your ex-spouse has died, you may be eligible to collect a survivor’s benefit based on that ex-spouse’s record of work and earnings, Czarnowski said. Contact the agency to check on the rules and to see if you’re eligible.
•There are lots of rules and other details regarding a divorced spouse and eligibility for Social Security benefits, too many to list here. For more information, read “Social Security: Understanding the Benefits” and “Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know.” (This booklet includes information that applies to men and women.) For a free copy, visit your local Social Security office, call the agency toll-free at 1 (800) 772-1213, or use the agency’s Web site: