Many divorced women are eligible for Social Security benefits based on their ex-husbands' work records. If you are eligible and claim these benefits, your ex's benefits and those of his dependents are not affected. If you qualify, you are entitled to benefits equal to half of your ex-husband's full retirement amount. If your ex qualifies for Social Security benefits, you may apply based on his record even if he hasn't yet claimed benefits.
You are eligible for Social Security benefits based on your ex-husband's record if you are of full retirement age or disabled, were married to your ex for at least 10 years and are currently unmarried. If you are also eligible for Social Security retirement benefits based on your own work record, you will receive the higher of half of your spouse's retirement amount or your full retirement amount -- not both. If you remarry after age 60 -- or age 50 if you qualify for Social Security disability at the time of your remarriage -- you may still be eligible for benefits based on your ex-husband's record. If you have remarried, but your subsequent marriage ended, whether through death or divorce, you may claim Social Security benefits based on your ex-husband's record.
Whether you are a spouse, an ex-spouse or a widow, the method to apply for Social Security benefits is the same. To begin the process of applying for Social Security benefits based on your ex-husband's record, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 as you would if you were still married. If you prefer, you can file online at socialsecurity.gov. The only difference in filing as an ex-wife is that you are asked questions relating to your eligibility either by the SSA representative or on the online form.
Delayed Retirement Credits
If you or your ex-husband delay claiming your Social Security retirement past the full retirement age, you may be eligible for delayed retirement credits. These entitle you to an increased benefit amount ranging from 5.5 percent to 8 percent per year, depending on your date of birth. This can be advantageous to you as an ex-wife if your own retirement benefit will be greater than your spousal benefit with the delayed retirement credits but wouldn't be without them.
If your ex-husband died and you are otherwise qualified for Social Security benefits based on his record, you are eligible for widow's benefits. Widow's benefits range from 71 percent to 100 percent of your ex-husband's full benefit amount. Many divorced women are eligible for more from widow's benefits than from the benefits based on their own work record even if that wasn't the case while their ex-husband was alive. As with spouse's benefits, you can't receive both. Because there are many factors in determining the amount of eligibility for widow's benefits, you should contact the SSA in person or by phone to apply for them.
Dell Markey is a full-time journalist. When he isn't writing business spotlights for local community papers, he writes and has owned and operated a small business.