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If you're entitled to Social Security retirement or disability payments, your ex-spouse may be able to claim Social Security benefits using your work record to qualify. Your ex-wife can't take your Social Security benefit away from you. If she claims benefits on your record, your benefits and the benefits of anyone else claiming benefits on your record, such as your disabled child, are not affected.
Your ex-wife can apply for Social Security on your Social Security record once she turns 62 if she remained unmarried and was married to you for at least 10 years. She must file an application with the Social Security Administration to collect benefits on your record. If she would receive more on her own record, she won't be allowed to draw off your work record. Your ex-wife doesn't have to wait until you apply for Social Security. As long as you're eligible to collect benefits, she can apply for benefits on your record after you've been divorced for at least two years, even if you haven't applied for Social Security yet.
Your ex-spouse will receive one-half of the amount you're entitled to under Social Security if she's the full retirement age or older. Your ex-spouse's full retirement age depends on what year she was born. The full retirement age for people born after 1959 is 67, while the full retirement age for people born in 1956 is 66 years and 4 months. If your ex-spouse has not reached her full retirement age when she applies for benefits on your record, her benefit amount will be reduced further, as determined by her age. For example, if she was born in 1959, her benefit amount on your record would be 34.17 percent of 50 percent of the benefit amount to which you're entitled.
Remarriage and Death
If your spouse remarried a person other than you, she can't collect benefits on your record unless her remarriage ends in death, annulment or divorce. At that time, she has the option of using your or her second husband's work record to draw benefits. Typically, your ex-wife will select the record that will give her the highest benefit amount.
Your former spouse can collect Social Security benefits off your record if you die. She must be at least 60 years old to collect survivor benefits unless she is disabled. A disabled person can collect benefits of a deceased former spouse's record at the age of 50. If your ex-wife remarried after age 60, the Social Security Administration does not disqualify her from collecting benefits on your record if you die.
Common Law Marriage
If you lived as a couple with your ex-spouse before marrying, she may be entitled to benefits on your record even if you were not legally married for 10 years. If any of the states you lived in with your former spouse over the span of the relationship recognizes common-law marriages, such as Kansas and Montana, she may be able to claim you were married while you lived in those states to meet the 10 year-requirement. She will have to establish the periods of marriage by common law with Social Security to draw benefits off your record and that your relationship met the common-law requirements as set by the state you were living in.
- Social Security Online: Qualifying for Divorced Spouse Benefits
- Orlando Sentinel: Ex-Wife May be Entitled to Social Security Benefits
- Kiplinger: Claiming Social Security After a Divorce
- Social Security Online: Benefit Amounts for Divorced Spouses
- Social Security Online: Retirement Benefits by Year of Birth
- Social Security Online: The Full Retirement Age is Increasing
- AARP: Can I Get My Ex's Benefit?
- Alternatives to Marriage Project: Common Law Marriage Fact Sheet
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