The Norman Transcript

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November 11, 2013

How divorce can affect your Social Security benefits

NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior, Am I entitled to my former husband’s Social Security benefits? I was married for 12 unpleasant years and would like to know what I may be eligible for.

— Ex-spouse

Dear Ex-spouse,

You’ll be happy to know that for the most part, Social Security provides divorced spouses benefits just like they do spouses, if you meet the government’s requirements. Here’s how it works.

A divorced spouse can collect a Social Security retirement benefit on the work record of their ex-husband (or ex-wife) if they are at least age 62, were married for at least 10 years, are unmarried now and are not eligible for a higher benefit based on their own work record.

To collect, however, your former spouse also must be at least 62 and eligible for Social Security benefits, and you must have been divorced for at least two years. But he doesn’t have to be receiving them for you to collect divorced spouse’s benefits.

Even if your ex is remarried, it won’t affect your right to divorcee benefits, nor will it affect your ex’s retirement benefits or his current spouse’s benefits.

 

Benefit amount: A divorced spouse can receive up to 50 percent of their ex’s full Social Security benefit, or less if they take benefits before their full-retirement age — which is 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1954.

To find out your full-retirement age and see how much your benefits will be reduced by taking them early, see ssa.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm.

Keep in mind, though, that if you qualify for benefits based on your own work history, you’ll receive the larger of the two benefits.

You cannot receive benefits on both your own record and your ex’s work record, too.

To find out your retirement benefits based on your own earnings history, see your Social Security statement at ssa.gov/myaccount. And to get an estimate of your divorced spouse benefit, call Social Security at 800-772-1213. You’ll need you’re ex’s Social Security Number to get it.

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