What to know about claiming an ex-spouse’s Social Security

This article looks at how divorce affects one’s right to claim Social Security benefits on an ex-spouse’s work history.

As U.S. News & World Report points out, since 1990 the rate of divorce among those aged 50 and over has more than doubled. That means that many people are going into retirement single or about to be single. One concern many older divorcees have is whether or not they will be able to claim their former spouse's Social Security benefits, including disability benefits, even after they divorce. The good news is that in many cases, it is possible to claim an ex-spouses Social Security benefits, but it is important to understand what the rules surrounding such claims are.

Claiming an ex-spouse's Social Security

Generally speaking, it is possible to claim Social Security benefits that have been accrued by an ex-spouse's work history. However, as The Motley Fool points out, there are certain thresholds that have to be met. For one, such benefits can typically only be claimed if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years. Also, it is only possible to claim an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits when one turns 62, which is the same age threshold that applies to married claimants.

One key difference, however, is that it is possible to claim an ex-spouse's retirement benefits before he or she does so. This is not the same for spouses who are still married, in which case one has to wait for the other to apply for benefits before applying him or herself.

It is also possible in most cases to claim survivor benefits if an ex-spouse passes away. Again, survivor benefits can only be claimed in cases where the marriage lasted for at least 10 years.

The effects of remarriage

An important caveat to the above is that remarriage typically has a major impact on one's right to claim an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits. One's right to claim an ex-spouse's benefits ends when one gets remarried and often resumes if that marriage ends in divorce. However, if the ex-spouse whose name the benefits are in gets remarried, then the other ex-spouse retains his or her right to continue claiming Social Security benefits (so long as they remain unmarried).

For survivor benefits, however, it is possible to still claim an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits so long as one does not remarry until after age 60 or, in the case of those claiming disability benefits, age 50. Survivor benefits only end for those who remarry prior to those age thresholds.

Getting help with Social Security claims

Millions of Americans rely on Social Security to get by, but making a claim can be difficult and complicated. To help ensure the process goes more smoothly, reach out to a Social Security attorney for help. An experienced attorney can help clients understand what benefits they can claim and how to maximize the chances of their claim succeeding.