January 23


Can You Collect Social Security From An Ex?

By Mac McLean

January 23, 2021

Marriages are complicated. Money is too. And if you find yourself being out of one while needing help with the other, you might be wondering, “can I collect Social Security from my ex-husband or my ex-wife?”

Social Security’s spousal benefits option gives people the chance to collect benefits based on their ex-husband’s or ex-wife’s earnings history. It’s a tool that could help low benefit earners who have taken time off to raise children, care for a loved one, or perform another duty that kept them from working.

Sign up for one of our free Social Security Workshops if you want to learn how spousal benefits and other program options could boost your income in retirement. You’ll also have a chance to meet a Social Security specialist who understands your situation and can help you move forward.

Collecting Social Security from an ex

The Social Security Administration uses the 35 years when a person had the highest income to calculate his or her monthly benefit payments. Unfortunately, this favors people who worked all or most of their lives at a steadily increasing rate of pay over those who stopped working in their early- to mid-career to raise children or who retired early so they could care for an aging parent.

Social Security’s spousal benefits program works to address this problem. It gives married individuals a chance to receive 1) a monthly payment based on their work history, or 2) a monthly payment equal to half, 50%, of what their husband or wife receives each month.

And yes, the spousal benefits apply to divorced spouses as well, provided:

  • They were married to the higher-earning spouse for at least 10 years,
  • They were divorced for at least two years, and
  • They are not currently married to someone else.

It’s important to note that current and ex-spouses will still see a reduction in their spousal benefit payments if they start the program before their full retirement age, which is between their 66th and 67th birthdays, depending on their age.

However, they will not see their benefit payments increase if they choose to continue working past their full retirement age. This option is only available to people who claim benefits based on their own earnings history.

Let’s face it: Like marriages and money, Social Security is complicated –which is not something you want to see from a program that pays 40 percent of the average person’s retirement income. That’s why you should sign up for one our Free Social Security Workshops.

Mac McLean

About the author

Based out of Bend, Oregon, Mac McLean is a freelance writer who covers older adults and the issues affecting their daily lives. He currently writes for this website, the AARP Bulletin, and Waste Alert. He and his wife are riding out the pandemic with their 12-year-old English Springer Spaniel mix in a 200-square-foot guest house on a 2.2-acre farm surrounded by chickens, cows, pigs, and a donkey that simply will not shut up.

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