Ask Bob: How Do Divorced Social Security Benefits Work?

Robert Powell, CFP®


My sister is 60 and her ex-husband is 57. Is she able to get Social Security? They were married for 10 years. Does she have to wait until he gets Social Security?


Individuals may be able to receive Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouses work record, says Joe Stenken, co-author of The Tools & Techniques of Employee Benefit and Retirement Planning.

According to Stenken, the requirements include (a) the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years, (b) the person collecting the benefits is not married, (c) the person collecting the benefits is at least 62 years old, (d) the recipient's benefit would be less than the divorced spouse benefit, and (e) the worker is also eligible to receive benefits.

“In your sister's case while she will be 62 in two years, her ex-husband will not be 62 for another five years,” says Stenken. “So she will not be eligible for a divorced spouse benefit until he turns 62. And since they will have been divorced for at least two years by then he does not need to be taking benefits for your sister to receive benefits.”

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