Social Security: The Surprising Benefit Divorced Spouses Can Get

Divorce forces you to separate your finances from those of your ex-spouse. But with Social Security, if you were married for 10 years or more, you can often get spousal and survivor benefits based on your ex-spouse's work history.

In the following video from our Social Security Q&A series, Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning, answers a question from Fool reader Denise, who asks where she stands on Social Security if her ex-husband of 15 years were to die. Dan notes that since Denise was married for at least 10 years, she can claim both spousal benefits while her ex-husband is alive and survivor benefits after his death. In addition, Dan notes that Denise's benefit will be based on when she chooses to take spousal benefits, with a reduction if she claims early. Dan warns, though, that if Denise remarries while her husband is still alive, then she'll lose the right to collect spousal benefits, and goes into the more complicated rules governing remarriage after an ex-spouse's death that depend on whether she remarries before or after age 60.

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Have general questions about Social Security? Email them to, and they might be the subject of a future video!

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  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2014, at 11:30 AM, gadfly1000 wrote:

    Not only that, but multiple divorced spouses can collect these benefits, as many as five, as long as each was married for ten years.

  • Report this Comment On August 12, 2014, at 10:55 PM, Pointlady wrote:

    If u donthave your husbans social securty number what do I need to do

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Dan Caplinger

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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