The divorce rate among Americans 50 and older has roughly doubled since the 1990s, and nearly tripled for those over 65. At Beck & Lenox Estate Planning & Elder Law, that is still a bit shocking to us. Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Yes, You Can Collect Social Security from an Ex-Spouse: Here’s How” explains that you can collect on your ex-spouse’s record if:
- You’re at least 62 and single
- You were married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years
- The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work history is less than the benefit you’d get based on your former spouse’s work history; and
- Your ex-spouse qualifies for Social Security.
You can even begin drawing benefits before your ex-spouse has retired, provided he or she qualifies, and you’ve been divorced at least two years. You can receive up to 50% of the amount your former spouse would receive in benefits at their full retirement age (this is for all spouses, not just exes). This is not in addition to your own benefit. Your benefit has to be lower than half of your ex’s benefit for you to apply.
Many divorced spouses are eligible for the same survivor benefits as current spouses. This means you could get the full amount of your ex’s benefits, not just half. Your marriage has to have lasted at least 10 years, and the amount has to be greater than what you’d receive based on your own record. There’s also another big difference: you can start getting survivor benefits at age 60, or 50 if you’re disabled.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) says that if you are divorced, when applying for benefits on your ex’s record, you will be asked questions about your name and work history. You may need to provide:
- A birth certificate or other proof of birth.
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status, if you were not born in the United States.
- S. military discharge paper(s), if you had military service before 1968.
- W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year.
- Your marriage certificate.
- Your final divorce decree.
Can I collect Social Security from an ex-spouse? Yes, however, be sure to speak with an experienced elder law attorney before deciding how and when to take Social Security.
Reference: Kiplinger (May 13, 2021) “Yes, You Can Collect Social Security from an Ex-Spouse: Here’s How”