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Social Security for Divorced

The basic purpose of Social Security is to provide a safety net for people as they age. The system is designed to care for the stay-at-home half of a couple. A divorce should not get in the way of that, and Congress has made provisions to care for both individuals.

Divorcees can qualify for Social Security based on the work history of a prior spouse (i.e., primary worker) in two different ways: Basic Divorced Spouse Benefits and Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse Benefits.

Basic Divorced Spouse Benefit

Under this benefit the individual must be single and both the individual and his or her ex-spouse must be age 62 or older. Furthermore, they must have been married for at least 10 years. Finally, either both individuals must be receiving benefits or the ex-spouse (primary worker) can have filed-and-suspended.

Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse Benefits

Under this benefit the basic qualifications are the same. The individual must be single and both the individual and her or his ex-spouse must be age 62 or older. And as before, the two must have been married at least 10 years. The difference now is that they must have been divorced for at least 2 years. There is no requirement for the ex-spouse (primary worker) to be collecting benefits.

As in other benefits, if you begin your benefit early (i.e., before Full Retirement Age or FRA) then there is a permanent reduction in benefits. The basic benefit is calculated similar to Spousal Benefit, related to 50% of the primary worker’s Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). As both divorced benefits require you to be single, you lose this benefit should you remarry. But if you later become single again you become eligible again for the benefit calculated from the primary worker.

In neither case does any benefits taken by the ex-spouse impact the benefits available for the worker (i.e., primary worker) or her or his family. In fact, the primary worker will not even be told that the ex-spouse is drawing Divorced Spouse Benefits.

The divorced individual will also not be given any information about the work history or benefits of the ex-spouse (i.e., primary worker). But the benefit available to them will be calculated and provided upon request.

When filing for Divorced Spouse Benefits you will need a copy of your marriage license and divorce decree, along with the Social Security Number of your ex-spouse.