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Can I Get My Ex-Spouse's Social Security Benefits?

November 22, 2023 • | Curran Estate & Elder Law, PLLC
If you’re thinking hard about your Social Security claiming strategy, there may be one aspect you've overlooked. If you're divorced, you may be able to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record.

While it may sound shady, this is a perfectly legal and ethical way to increase your Social Security checks. Here is what you need to know from U.S. News & World Report’s recent article, “Can You Collect an Ex-Spouse's Social Security Benefits?”

This claiming strategy is used after a divorce, and it can be a win-win for former partners.

Your ex-spouse will also still get his or her full benefit.

You are claiming the benefit you are entitled to using a calculation based on your ex’s earnings record. One spouse may have earned most of the income, while the other spouse did not earn as much due to, for example, staying home to raise children or having a lower-paying job.

You calculate your retirement benefit based on your own earnings record. Calculate your ex’s retirement benefit based on their earning record and multiply that by 50 percent. You get the greater of these—and there is no impact on what your ex receives.

Unfortunately, you cannot get both amounts.

Instead, you get the greater benefits based on your own work record or 50 percent of your ex-spouse’s benefit. No matter your choice, the same discounting formula applies if you take your benefit before your full retirement age. Therefore, hold off filing, if you can manage the cash flow.

There are three primary scenarios where you can get access to more Social Security benefits from your divorced spouse:

  1. Your marriage lasted 10 years or more.
  2. You remarried, but your second marriage ended in divorce, death, or annulment.
  3. You are 62 years of age or older.

Even if your ex-spouse has remarried, you can still tap into your ex’s Social Security benefits…and this doesn’t take anything away from the ex’s new married partner's benefits. If your ex-spouse is dead, you still may be able to tap into their benefits. If you remarried, but your second marriage ended in divorce, death, or an annulment, you may still be able to access your first spouse’s Social Security benefits.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (Sep. 30, 2023) “Can You Collect an Ex-Spouse's Social Security Benefits?”

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