Many divorced couples are worried about their Social Security situation. After all, if your ex-spouse tried to deny you a fair shake in the divorce settlement, why wouldn't he or she do the same when it comes to spousal Social Security benefits?

Even with amicably ended marriages, what's best for one of the ex-spouses might not be best for the other. For instance, your former partner might need to start taking benefits before full retirement age, which, among married couples, would mean lower benefits for you. Conversely, your ex may want to wait until age 70 to maximize his or her monthly payment, while you need your benefits years before that. Once again, if you're married, you would have to wait until your spouse tapped in.

Don't worry
Thankfully, the Social Security Administration has thought of this and made it impossible for one ex-spouse to impede the other's plans. Let's hear more from Jean Setzfand, vice president of financial security at AARP, about this issue. In the video below, Jean talks about two big things divorced couples need to know.

To recap Jean's points for divorced couples:

  1. Make sure you're eligible for spousal benefits. If your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you're at least 62 and unmarried, and the benefits you're entitled to receive based on your own work history are less than what you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work, you're eligible.
  2. For married couples, a person has to begin claiming benefits in order for their spouse to get benefits. This is not the case if you're divorced. You can tap in as soon as your former spouse is eligible for benefits, at 62 years of age or older. But they don't have to claim first in order for you to claim.

Another important point: The Social Security Administration also says that if you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse's record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce, or annulment).

How much can you get?
Assuming you have passed all the eligibility hurdles, what kind of ex-spousal benefits can you expect? If you wait until your full retirement age (between 65 and 67, depending on your date of birth), you'll get an amount equal to one-half your ex-spouse's full retirement amount.

There are many other things divorced couples need to know, and I highly recommend reading through the Social Security Administration's website for divorced couples. There's information on how your ex-spousal benefits will combine with your own, as well as what happens if you delay benefits or keep working while you're receiving them.

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