Social Security benefits for divorced spouses: A primer

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2021 | Divorce

When planning their retirement finances, divorced Maryland residents sometimes overlook Social Security benefits for divorced spouses that would otherwise be important parts of those plans.

The Social Security Administration pays benefits to divorced spouses when certain requirements are met. Before filing for those benefits, it’s important to understand those conditions and benefits.

Let’s first be clear about those benefits: when someone claims divorced spouse benefits, it does not reduce or otherwise affect the benefits their former spouse receives.

These requirements must be met

The Social Security Administration says that if the following conditions are met, you can collect benefits based on the earnings of your former spouse:

  • The marriage must have lasted at least 10 years
  • You are not remarried
  • Your former spouse is at least 62 years old
  • You’re entitled to receive Social Security retirement benefits
  • The Social Security benefits you could receive based on your own earnings history is less than what you would receive based on the ex-spouse’s earnings history

Remarriage conditions

Note: if your former spouse is interested in filing a Social Security claim based on your earnings, it does not matter if you have remarried. However, the ex-spouse who wants to file a claim cannot have remarried.

If your ex-spouse remarried after your divorce, they cannot claim any Social Security benefits based on your earnings history. They would instead have to claim benefits on their own earnings record or on the new spouse’s earning’s history.

An exception to that rule is if your former spouse remarried, but then their new spouse died. In that scenario, your ex could claim surviving spouse benefits or divorced spouse benefits, whichever is greater.

How much would Social Security pay your divorced spouse?

The dollar figure your ex would receive in Social Security benefits as a divorced spouse depends on your earnings history.

If you qualify for benefits but have yet to claim them, your former spouse can still receive benefits, provided another condition is met: you’ve been divorced for at least two years.

If your ex is eligible to receive benefits based on their own earnings record, Social Security will pay them that amount. They can qualify for additional benefits based on your work record if your retirement benefits are greater than theirs.

Benefits max

The maximum amount your ex can receive in benefits based on your earnings record is one-half of the amount of your benefit.

We’ll have more about Social Security benefits for divorced spouses in an upcoming post to our Bethesda Family Law Blog. Please check back.