Social Security: Can You Claim Spousal Benefits After a Divorce?

Even if you're divorced, you may still be entitled to a spousal benefits from the Social Security Administration. To qualify, however, four things must be true.

First, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years. Second, you must be at least 62. Third, you must be unmarried currently. And fourth, you can't be entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own accord.

Assuming you satisfy this four-part test, in turn, you have effectively the same rights vis-a-vis your spousal share of an ex's Social Security. Namely, while the ex is living, you're entitled to as much as 50% of his or her monthly payout. And when that person dies, you assume survivor's benefits, which qualify you for as much as 100% of the deceased ex-spouse's benefits.

To learn more about this, check out the following video, in which Motley Fool contributor John Maxfield discusses the ins and outs of former spouses' rights to collect spousal Social Security benefits.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 6:04 AM, comotj wrote:

    I truly liked your informative article but could you please define this question about SS: Why or how can individuals that have never paid into SS get payments out? For example, illegal immigrants can receive SS payments but have never contributed, how does that seem possible? No system can survive that kind of policy and why are they entitled to this money and who came up with such a ludicrous idea?

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 9:12 AM, terrychase wrote:

    my wife die in2012 we were married for 29 year ami intidel for her ss benefits

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 10:33 AM, gadfly1000 wrote:


    " illegal immigrants can receive SS payments but have never contributed, "

    NO THEY CAN NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Where do you people get and keep repeating this crap?

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 11:10 AM, retirementFor wrote:

    I am 63, still employed, still single, making 53000 per year. My deceased husband (only married once) and I was married over 10 years. Can I continue to work, start collecting his social security now and continue to collect until I retire at 70 years of age or older. Then may I drop his social security and start collecting my social security at 70 or older? Which my benefit may be higher because of my age.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 11:17 AM, nikkitta12 wrote:

    Hi Comoti, no illegal in this country can collect social security. Ignorancia!!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 11:35 AM, marie55 wrote:

    I have been married two times. The first time I was married for 13 years. That ex remarried and is still married. I married a secont time and was married for one. year. I am 59 can I collect off of my first ex's social security if it is higher than mine. we divorced in 1988.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 5:33 PM, Bood wrote:

    If you both qualify for SS, you each can collect on your own record or, if one had substantially lower income, that person can collect spousal benefits if it is higher than their own benefit.

    My income is about 500.00 less than my husband. How do you go about filing for part of his benefits?

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 11:09 PM, SESEAY wrote:

    If my long term ex-wife were to collect against MY social security payments will this diminish in any way my own payments?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 6:12 AM, Chubby wrote:

    My ex-husband died over 12 years ago. My daughter and I were collecting SS survivor's benefits,mine stopped when she turned 16, and she is going off to college. Is is true that once she graduates her benefits will stop? Can I collect SS from my deceased ex husband when I retire? I have not re-married.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 12:22 PM, JimInPhila wrote:

    Obviously you're very knowledgeable. Answer this one if you will. I have a dear friend, separated from her husband for 10 years, after a 30+ year marriage.Both are over 70. Her husband refuses to give her his social security number and the SSA refuses to provide it. What can she do?

    Many thanks, JimInPhila

  • Report this Comment On May 26, 2014, at 10:14 AM, limelight50 wrote:

    "Namely, while the ex is living, you're entitled to as much as 50% of his or her monthly payout."

    Are you saying in the above sentence that my ss monthly check will be reduced by 50% if my ex qualifies or (hopefully) you meant to say he/she gets the equivalent from SSA; not me?

  • Report this Comment On August 12, 2014, at 12:51 PM, Gumavital wrote:

    I am 83 years old and retired. I get no other income other than a small pension, less than $1000 per month. I am married to my wife 59 years old and still working. Am I illegible to receive SS benefit now before my wife retires?

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John Maxfield

John is The Motley Fool's senior banking specialist. If you're interested in banking and/or finance, you should follow him on Twitter.

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