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Social Security retirement benefits and divorce

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2023 | Divorce |

Social Security benefits may go to the spouses of workers, including same-sex couples, after they end their marriage. However, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years and spouses must meet other complicated eligibility requirements. These issues become more complex if the parties involved had more than one marriage or divorce.

Social Security eligibility should be part of property division negotiations.

Divorced spouses’ benefits

A divorced spouse who claims their Social Security benefits at their full retirement age or later may receive 50% of their former spouses’ primary insurance amount if they did not remarry before they reached 60. Also, their own benefit must be less than 50% of their ex-spouse’s benefit. Retirement age depends upon year of birth.

Divorced spouses who make claims on the record of an ex-spouse will not receive more benefits if they delay their benefits until after their full retirement age.

The ex-spouse’s age when they claim benefits is irrelevant. If a spouse claims benefits at their full retirement age, they will receive their maximum divorced benefit regardless of the timing of their former spouse’s claim.


A spouse who claims benefits based on their former spouse’s work record must be single when they make the application. It does not matter if that former spouse is remarried or single. Their former spouse, and another spouse, may be eligible for those benefits.

The marriage must last at least 10 years. It is important to consider the actual legal date of the divorce.

Other complications

Spouses who divorced more than once after they were in marriage lasting at least 10 years may claim the higher of the two divorced spouses’ benefits if they are currently single.

The filling status of the spouse on whose record the claim is made is irrelevant if the spouses divorced over two years earlier. But that spouse must be at least 62 if the claim is filed less than two years before the divorce.

Eligibility requirements can complicate divorce negotiations. But Social Security is an important income source for retirees. Attorneys can assist spouses on this and other divorce issues.


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