Divorce & Social Security: What You Need to Know

Everyone plans to retire. Most would like to retire sooner rather than later but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen, especially when divorce comes into the picture. We all have a picture of retirement in our heads. For some it’s traveling around the world, maybe visiting family and enjoying your spouse’s company. You’ve been saving for years and years; the time is getting closer each and every day. Then the divorce happens. Money gets dumped into the divorce and your assets are being split. How will you live on one income? Even more so, how will you retire on one income? Social security plays a big role for many individuals when planning for retirement but there are benefits for divorced spouses that a lot of people aren’t aware. I’ve taken the liberty of listing a few below.

  • If you have been married for 10 years or more, have been divorced for at least two, and have not remarried, you’re able to claim social security benefits from your ex-spouse once you reach age 62. You can take 50% of theirs or 100% of yours, whichever is higher
  • If you have been married for 10 years or more, have been divorced for at least two, and have not remarried but your ex-spouse has died, you’re able to claim from their benefit starting at age 60
  • Your divorced spousal benefits will not increase after you spouse’s full retirement age so it doesn’t make sense to take them any later than that date
  • If you have been married several times, each for over 10 years, you have been divorced for at least two and have not remarried, you’re able to choose which ex-spouse’s benefit you would like to receive (naturally you’ll pick the highest)
  • If you were born before January 2, 1954 and have already reached full retirement age, you can choose to receive only the divorced spousal benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date which will allow it to grow. However, if your birthday falls after that date then you are no longer able to file and suspend
  • If you choose to take your divorced spouse benefits, the amount of benefits you receive does not affect the amount your ex-spouse will receive

There are many aspects and rules that play into social security. These rules are listed on the social security website today but could be subject to change. It is important to speak with a financial advisor that understands these rules in regards to your specific situation before making decisions. Just as you worked with a family law attorney through your divorce, it’s recommended that you work with a financial advisor that has specialized knowledge with the financial aspects of divorce as well.


Angelique Ayala is a financial advisor and founder of Dear Divorcée. She is a panelist on DiPietro Divorce Seminars, helping educate attendees on the financial implications of divorce.

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