Social Security Benefits for a Spouse, Divorced Spouse or Surviving Spouse

Benefits for a Divorced Spouse

Your divorced spouse can get benefits on your Social Security record if you were married at least 10 years. Benefits are available when your divorced spouse is age 62 or older and unmarried. Also, if you and your ex-spouse have been divorced at least two years, and both you and your ex-spouse both are age 62 or older, your ex-spouse can get benefits even if you’re not retired.

Don’t worry though: benefits for your divorced spouse does not effect your or your current spouse’s Social Security benefits.

Retirement Benefits for Widows and Widowers

A surviving spouse can begin receiving Social Security benefits at age 60 (or at age 50 if he or she is disabled). The surviving spouse can take a reduced benefit on one earnings record, then later switch to a full benefit the other record. For example, a widow could take a reduced widow’s benefit at age 60 or 62, then when she reaches full retirement age switch to her full (100%) retirement benefit.

Spouse’s Retirement Benefits

Your Social Security may be increased based on your spouse’s earning record. If you did not work or have low earnings you might receive as much as one-half of your spouse’s full benefit.

Combining the spouse’s benefit with the full retirement age rules might be a good idea. If you’ve reached full retirement age (sometime between age 66 and 67 depending on when you were born),  and plan to keep working, you may claim only your spouse’s benefits and continue to accrue delayed retirement credits on your own Social Security record. Then you could wait as long as until age 70 to file for benefits on your own record and receive a higher monthly benefit.

Your spouse’s benefit is reduced if you start benefits before you reach full retirement age. For example, if your full retirement age is 66, you could get 35% of your spouse’s unreduced benefit when you are age 62. The amount of the benefit increases until you can get 50% of your spouse’s full benefit if you wait to claim spouse’s benefits until your full retirement age.

PLEASE NOTE: you cannot claim spouse’s benefits on your current spouse’s record until your spouse files for retirement benefits. However, if your spouse is full retirement age, you can apply for retirement benefits and then request to have the payments suspended. That allows you to receive a spouse’s benefit now, and your spouse can earned delayed retirement credits until age 70 (which means your spouse’s own monthly benefit will be more).

For additional guidance, you can visit the Social Security website at ssa.gov and review the Retirement Benefits Guide.