Divorced Spouse Social Security Benefits: How Much and How to Qualify

Divorced spouse Social Security benefits can equal up to 50% of an ex-spouse's Social Security retirement benefit.
Lee Huffman
By Lee Huffman 
Published
Edited by Tina Orem

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A divorced spouse can receive up to 50% of an ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the divorced spouse is divorced at least two years, unmarried and at least 62. The benefit doesn’t increase existing payments or reduce the ex-spouse’s benefits.

Who qualifies for spousal retirement benefits after divorce?

In order to qualify for divorced spouse benefits from Social Security, six things have to be true

SSA.gov. Benefits For Your Family. Accessed Apr 27, 2023.
:

  1. Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.

  2. You've been divorced for at least two years. 

  3. You are at least 62 years old.

  4. You are unmarried.

  5. The Social Security retirement benefit you would receive based on your own work history is less than the Social Security divorced spouse benefit.

  6. Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement benefits.

If you’ve remarried, you may become eligible again if your later marriage ends in annulment, divorce or death

.

You qualify for spousal retirement benefits whether you were a stay-at-home spouse, worked full time or a combination of the two.

How much Social Security does a divorced spouse get?

A divorced spouse can receive up to 50% of their ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit. You must wait until you reach full retirement age if you want to claim your full benefit. For most people, full retirement age for Social Security is between 66 and 67.

Although most people can start receiving benefits at age 62, the Social Security Administration may permanently reduce the monthly benefits by as much as 30% when filing before full retirement age

.

Spousal benefits decrease by 25/36 of one percent for each month before normal retirement age, up to 36 months. If you retire more than 36 months before full retirement age, your benefit reduces another 5/12 of one percent for every month that exceeds 36 months

SSA.gov. Benefits for Spouses. Accessed Apr 27, 2023.
.

You’ll be enrolled automatically in Medicare Part A and Part B when you turn 65 if you've already claimed Social Security or qualify due to disability. Otherwise, you must enroll yourself in Medicare when you turn 65.

Estimate your Social Security retirement benefits

Your actual benefit may be lower or higher than estimate made with this calculator, because it does not take into account your actual earnings history.

We assume you have earnings every year until you begin receiving Social Security benefits. If you had several years of noncovered employment or your earnings changed significantly from year to year, this calculator will overestimate or underestimate your benefit.

Desired age to begin Social Security

The earliest most people can receive benefits is age 62.

Can you collect Social Security divorced spouse benefits and your own retirement benefits at the same time?

You cannot double-dip on Social Security retirement benefits. Instead, you receive the greater of:

This means that technically you can receive a combination of both benefits if your own retirement benefit is less than what you’d receive from the spousal benefit. You'll receive an additional amount to make your own retirement benefit equal to the spousal benefit.

For example, if the Social Security Administration determines that Jane Smith’s spousal benefit is $1,000 monthly but her own Social Security retirement benefit is $600, she’ll receive her $600 retirement benefit plus $400 as a spousal benefit.

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Can your ex's current spouse collect spousal benefits if you do?

Collecting Social Security benefits as an ex-spouse does not affect your ex-spouse’s benefits or their new spouse’s benefits

SSA.gov. Benefits For Your Family. Accessed Apr 28, 2023.
. The calculations are completely separate, and one person’s benefits generally do not interfere with any current or future spouses or additional divorces.

How to file for Social Security divorced spouse benefits

You can apply for Social Security divorced spouse benefits online, over the phone at 800-772-1213 or at your local Social Security office.

Can you apply for Social Security divorced spouse benefits if your ex hasn't yet applied for Social Security?

Yes, divorced spouses can apply for Social Security benefits even if their ex-spouses have not retired yet. In order to qualify, you must be at least 62 years old, have been divorced for at least two full years and married to the former spouse for 10 years or longer.

If you collect Social Security divorced spouse benefits, do you have to inform your ex-spouse?

No, you do not have to tell your ex-spouse that you applied for Social Security benefits.

  • Although it may be helpful if your ex-spouse provides the information necessary to file for divorced spouse Social Security benefits, you can apply without it. 

  • On your application, you’ll need to provide your ex-spouse’s full name and date of birth, plus the date and place of your marriage and how and when it ended. That information should be enough for the Social Security Administration to find your ex-spouse’s work history, which is necessary to calculate the benefit

    .

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