If you are divorced, had been married to that person for at least 10 years, and are not remarried, you may be able to collect on your former spouse’s earnings record as a divorced spouse, provided their monthly benefit payments are higher than what you would receive based upon your own earnings record. You must be at least 62 years old and your former spouse must also be eligible to receive their own retirement benefits. It does not matter if your former spouse re-marries and this will not affect another person’s ability to collect on your former spouse’s earnings record, such as their present spouse. Although, if you are currently re-married, you are no longer eligible to collect on your former spouse’s earnings record and must either collect on your own record or your new spouse’s record.
Even if your former spouse dies, you may still be able to collect their benefits as a surviving divorced spouse. The same requirements apply as if you were collecting divorced spouse benefits if they were alive. Additionally, even if you re-marry, as long as you are at least 60 years old when the marriage occurs, the re-marriage will not affect your ability to receive surviving divorced spouse benefits on your deceased former spouse’s earnings record, so long as you are not eligible to receive a higher benefit amount on either your earnings record or your current spouse’s record earnings.
If your new spouse dies, you may once again collect on your former spouse’s benefits, again, provided they are higher than what you would receive either on your own earnings record or your deceased spouse’s earnings record as a widow or widower.
If you have been denied widow or widower’s benefits for your deceased spouse even though you were married, please see my blog article: Social Security Widow Or Widower’s Benefits And Exceptions.
Andrea Nelson is an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan who focuses her practice in the area of estate planning, including wills, trusts, health and financial powers of attorney as well as estate administration. Attorney Nelson can be reached at [email protected].