Can an Ex-Wife Claim My Social Security Benefit?

In 2017, more than 3 million spouses, including ex-spouses, got Social Security benefits from their former husband's or wife’s work records. If you qualify for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, your ex-wife can also get benefits if she meets the Social Security Administration’s eligibility requirements. She would get monthly benefits on a tax-free basis just like you. Her benefits won’t affect how much you get, though.

Eligibility for Retirement and Disability

Your ex-wife qualifies for Social Security retirement and disability benefits if she was married to you for 10 years before the divorce and is unmarried when she files for benefits. To collect on your benefits, she must be age 62 or older and the benefit she would receive based on her own work record must be lower than her benefit from your record. In other words, she is entitled to the higher benefit. If your ex-wife remarries, she usually will no longer be able to collect benefits based on your work record unless the marriage is terminated by divorce, annulment or death. If your ex-wife is caring for your child who is age 16 or younger or disabled, she may be eligible for additional benefits that are based on the child’s eligibility and continue despite remarriage.

Eligibility for Surviving Ex-Spouses

If you pass away, the requirement for your ex-wife to get Social Security survivors benefits has a few differences. She generally had to be married to you for 10 years before the divorce to qualify and has to be at least 60 years old (age 50 if disabled). Her disability must meet the SSA’s adult definition of disability and occurred before or within seven years of your death. If she remarries after she has reached the eligible age of 60 (or 50 if disabled), she can still receive benefits.

Benefit Amounts for Ex-Spouses

The SSA pays the same amount in benefits to your ex-wife as a current wife would get. She would get one-half of your Social Security disability and retirement benefits. Her retirement benefits are permanently reduced if she gets them before reaching full retirement age, which is based on her year of birth.

Her survivors benefits are determined differently. The SSA would pay her 100 percent of your entitled benefit amount in survivors benefits if she is at full retirement age. Full retirement age for retirement and survivors benefits are different, though. If she is between age 60 and full retirement age, she gets 71.5 to 99 percent of your entitled benefit. She can get 71.5 percent if she is between 50 and 59 and disabled. If she’s taking care of your minor or disabled children, she gets 75 percent.

Considerations When Delaying Retirement

If you have not applied for retirement benefits but qualify for them, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your work record if you have been divorced for at least two years. The benefit your ex-wife receives has no impact on the benefits you or your current wife will receive when you apply for retirement benefits.

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