10 Facts You Need to Know about Social Security Benefits and Divorce

Divorcing later in life, or just trying to plan ahead and get a more comprehensive financial picture? Here are ten things to know about Social Security benefits.

1. A marriage of at least 10 years triggers social security rights.

Ten years is defined as Date of Marriage to Date of Divorce. So, for example, even if you separated with your spouse at eight years, you may still be able to collect social security based on your ex-spouse's record, so long as the divorce was not finalized until you hit that 10-year mark.

2. Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse's full retirement or social security disability benefit

This is assuming you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age. If you begin drawing from social security before your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced.

3. Social security benefits that you (ultimately) receive based on your ex-spouse's contributions to Social Security do NOT reduce your ex's benefit.

4. You can collect benefits on your ex-spouse's record even if he or she has remarried if you meet some criteria

  • You are unmarried
  • You are 62 years old or older
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to social security retirement or disability benefits

5. Your benefit is based on...

The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work/contributions is less than the benefit you will receive based on your ex-spouse's work/contributions

6. Remarriage can change things

If you remarry, you won't be able to collect benefits through your ex-spouse unless your later marriage ends by death, divorce, or annulment.

7. Even if your ex has not applied for retirement benefits, you still receive benefits based on his or her record as long as you have been divorced for at least two years.

Read important information about dividing retirement plan benefits post-divorce through QDRO here.

Need help with your QDRO? Our trusted partner, SimpleQDRO, can help.

8. Your children might be eligible for Social Security benefits, too.

If you are raising your ex-spouse's child(ren), they can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse's work record while they are under 18 years old or under 19 and still in high school full-time. You may also be able to receive a benefit.

9. If your ex-spouse dies before you, you may be eligible to receive his/her full retirement benefit instead of one half.

10. You have privacy regarding the collection of benefits.

Your ex-spouse will not be notified by the Social Security Administration in any way when you begin to receive benefits based on his/her work record.


Senior Editor
Communication, Relationships, Divorce Insights
Melissa Schmitz is Senior Editor at Hello Divorce, and her greatest delight is to help make others’ lives easier – especially when they’re in the middle of a stressful life transition like divorce. After 15 years as a full-time school music teacher, she traded in her piano for a laptop and has been happily writing and editing content for the last decade. She earned her Bachelor of Psychology degree from Alma College and her teaching certificate from Michigan State University. She still plays and sings for fun at farmer’s markets, retirement homes, and the occasional bar with her local Michigan band.