Are You Losing Your Social Security Benefits?

QuestionI recently heard that I may be entitled to collect Social Security benefits when I retire based on my ex-husband’s earnings. But I looked at my divorce decree and it doesn’t say anything about it. Did I miss the boat?

AnswerHere’s some good news about your divorce! If you were married to your ex-spouse for ten years before your divorce became final, you are entitled to Social Security benefits based on his earnings by operation of federal law.

That means it doesn’t have to be addressed in your divorce papers to be effective.

You may apply to the Social Security Administration for benefits on your ex’s earnings record if you are at least 62 and aren’t remarried.

Those benefits are called “derivative benefits,” and they equal one-half of your ex-husband’s benefits.

He may threaten to keep working and thwart your ability to claim benefits against his record, but his threats are empty. It isn’t necessary for him to have retired for you to begin collecting.

Unlike other pensions, the social security benefits you receive will be based on his entire earnings record, not just his earnings during the time you were married.

The Social Security benefits you receive won’t reduce the amount he receives. If he’s remarried, it won’t reduce what his current wife is entitled to receive. And if he has a new family, it won’t reduce the amount his young children receive either.

You can only receive one Social Security check, so if your own earnings record entitles you to more money than the derivative benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings, you’ll collect benefits based on the highest amount to which you are entitled.

If you have more than one ex-spouse, and you were married to both of them for ten years or longer, you’ll collect based on whichever earnings record gives you the higher benefits.

If you are a government employee, your Social Security benefits will be reduced by a portion of any government pension that you are receiving based on your own earnings.

But if you receive a government pension because an ex-spouse worked for the government, it won’t impair your ability to collect Social Security


  1. If you remarry after age 60, you can still receive social security benefits based on your ex’s earnings according to the government website.

  2. If you are older than your ex husband, you have to wait for him to turn 62 before you can receive his ss benefits. And, if you take the lower benefits when he turns 62, you cannot than get the full monthly amount that you could have had you waited until his full retirement age ( around 67 yrs). So if you are older than your husband, as I was, beware! You may not be able to depend on his ss benefits when you need them.

    • You can get full divorced spouse social security benefits once your ex-husband is eligible to receive benefits at age 62 (he doesn’t have to actually receive them). Whether the benefits are reduced or not depends on your age at the date you begin collecting. So if you are at full retirement age of 66, you will get full divorced spouse benefits, even if your ex is less than full retirement age.

  3. I was married to my 1st husband 25yrs, whom is now deceased.I had remarried before his demise, am I eligible for his social security or derivatives. He was 66 and I am 59.

    • If you are currently married, you are eligible for spousal benefits based on your current husband’s earnings history. If you are divorced, then you can collect widows benefits based on your first husband’s history.

  4. im married to a city worker, he;s getting pension from another state.
    he ‘s actualy a city worker for another state and getting another pension plus
    he keep working at the same job. he sign another contract for 5 years more.
    he is 60 years old.( im 70.)
    we are separated. can i collect some money?
    Sep 12-2013

  5. can I use my ex-husband va loan to go back to school he has passed away he would have been 64 years old this months or can I get his ss

  6. Hi, my husband and i have been married for 3 years which is too early to get divorce but our relationship can’t be fixed anymore. It’s getting worse and worse. So we decide to divorce. But i’m worried if he won’t give me anything because the property is only on his name. Can i still get something from him ?
    Thank you for your attention


  7. I was married for twenty yeas to my first husband am ii entitled to some of company s retirement pension?

  8. Ii started drawing on my SS, at 62. I will be 64 this year. My husband and I are getting divorced. If I already started drawing on mine and his is more, can I start drawing on his instead? He will also be 64 this year.

    • If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his record if you have been divorced for at least two years. Those benefits are equal to 50% of what he receives.

  9. I was divorced after 23 years of marriage. My own benefit amount is larger than my ex’s so I cannot collect anything from his. I was told when he passes away I can file for his benefit.What amount would I be able to receive

  10. Thank you for your answer but I am still confused. Will my benefit amount be lowered if I collected his benefit

  11. Hi I have a strange question , I thought I was divorced, and my husband and I were married 1973 and thought I was divorced 1987 husband remarried????? 1993 now he was retired and receiving his social security and was married to another person they were married in Las Vegas. Now both DECEASED and nobody can claim any benefits but I was his first wife and more then likely still legally would of been married, because I never received divorce papers years ago and my husband was a alcoholic also so I have looked every where for my divorce papers AT VITAL SATISTICS telephone # after telephone # and they are know where to be found. And I am trying to get my spousal benefits since I am 60 trying to work with social security I have my married certificate, shows I was married, and there is paper work of him being married again but I did not receive divorce papers and both deceased no divorce papers HOW CAN I RECEIVE MY HUSBANDS SOCIAL SECURITY BENIFITS WITHOUT DIVORCE PAPERS people marry even if they are married or thought they were divorced how do I get through this mess its been 41 years now my husband died 2011 ??????????

    • If you are divorced, then you are entitled to survivor divorce benefits. If you are still married, then you are entitled to widow benefits. So either way, it seems to me you are entitled to benefits. So tell them you were still married, since it doesn’t look like you were divorced.

  12. Ok..tough question..married for close to 16 years…divorced.New York resident…I remarried foolishly for two months and immediately divorced (same sex marriage before being valid in New York…it was in Massachusetts ) but lasted two…three months…
    Fast forward 5 yrs..recently engaged….female as well..same sex (now legal in NY)….
    I am 52… She is 47…. If we legally marry do I lose social security benefits from my original marriage ? My fiancé is on SSD and works minimal….or did I already lose them when I had the brief 3 mo marriage from Massachusetts ?
    Not sure what the legality of remarriage is….I know my social security is minimal..worked many years off the books….his would be greater ….if we were to marry, would I then be entitled to her benefits, although they are SSD….not SSI….any thoughts? Thanks so much for any info…was on hold for one hour with social security and finally hung up. terri

    • You have 10 years until you will be eligible to collect reduced divorced spouse or spousal benefits and 14+ years until you are eligible to collect full benefits, so the laws could change between now and then. But as things are right now: If you are married when you reach social security age, you can collect spousal benefits based on your current spouse’s history. If you are divorced again by then, you can collect based on your first ex’s benefits, since you are no longer married to anyone. If your new marriage lasts 10 years or longer before it ends in divorce, you can collect based on either of your ex’s, or your own, whichever is higher. You can’t collect SSD benefits, but her SSD will convert to regular Social Security benefits once she reaches retirement age.

  13. if i start SS benefits early at age 62 on my ex husbands earnings, which are significantly HIGHER than mine ever thought of being…what amount do they reduce…his benefit package at his age at 62 or his benefits at full retirement age. ie: at 62 on 250,000. a year income or his age at 70 same income? do they reduce my cut on his full retirement age benefit or at the age i retire (62). he is 4 months younger than me. wow. this is tough!

    • You say he’s 4 months younger than you, so you can’t collect when you turn 62, since he’ll just be 61, so you’ll have to wait several months until he’s of retirement age. spousal benefits are at most only half of what he is eligible for. You’ll get about 72% of that if you begin collecting at your age 62. Your divorced spouse benefits are based on what his earnings have been, not when he chooses to retire. If he earns 250,000, his social security benefits won’t be any greater than if he earned half that, because the maximum taxed for social security is capped in the low 100,000s.

  14. Correct. I forgot to mention that I would not be collecting until he turned age 62. I love my career I have chosen and probably wouldn’t think of retiring early, but my bones are saying something different! Maybe a different, easier job would be more appropriate. After having that conversation with some friends, this conversation came up and none of us had any idea about benefits. The internet has been helpful, but your answer was just what I was looking for and could not find. Thank you sincerely for your prompt reply and your assistance to not only me, but hundreds more I am sure. Be blessed…

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