As you are nearing retirement, you might be looking into your options for maximizing the benefits you receive. If so, you might be happy to learn that even if you never contributed to social security but were married to someone who did, you might be entitled to social security as well. This is true even if you are divorced and your divorce decree stated that you are waiving your rights to their social security benefits. This is because you cannot terminate someone’s social security rights in a divorce.
But, will my ex find out?
Not unless you tell them. Social Security Administration will not notify your ex-spouse that you have applied to collect benefits based on their work record. This means if you have concerns about them finding out, you don’t have to worry because you can receive payments without their knowledge or express permission and the amount you receive does not impact their benefits or reduce the amount they would be entitled to.
Requirements for benefits
To apply for benefits, you would need to know your ex-spouse’s social security number, have a copy of the final divorce judgment, and meet certain requirements.
As a divorced spouse, you can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record (even if they have remarried) if:
- You are age 62 or older.
- Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
- You are unmarried.
- Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
- The benefit that you are entitled to receive based on your own work record is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work record.
If you have been divorced for at least two continuous years, and meet the other requirements above, the good news is: You can begin receiving benefits as soon as your ex-spouse is eligible even if they haven’t begun receiving benefits yet.
Your benefits vs. Their benefits
If you are also eligible to receive benefits based on your own record, you won’t receive both amounts, you will only receive a benefit that equals the highest amount.
However, if you were born before January 2, 1954, you can elect to receive only your ex-spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your own to allow it to continue to grow and collect it at a later date. If you were born after that date, unfortunately, that option would not be available to you.