Social Security Benefits and Divorce

Most couples work to keep an eye on their financial future. Saving for retirement and building a nest egg is a years-long endeavor. In addition to investments and pensions, many people also rely on Social Security retirement benefits to supplement their income during their retirement and help make ends meet. Following a divorce, finances may become tight, especially as investment accounts and pensions may have to be equitably divided at mediation or the final hearing. What is less commonly known is that even after a divorce is final, a spouse may be able to receive Social Security benefits based on the former spouse’s work history.

Special requirements must be met before a divorced spouse may be eligible to apply to receive benefits based on the ex-spouse’s benefits. The parties must have been married for at least ten years. Moreover, the applying party must:

1) be unmarried

2) be at least sixty-two years old

3) have an ex-spouse that is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits

4) the benefit that you are entitled to based on your own work history is less than the benefit you would receive based on your former spouse’s work.

If you are approved under these criteria, your benefit will be equal to one-half of your former spouse’s full Social Security retirement or disability benefits if you start taking those benefits at your full retirement age. This does not include any delayed retirement credits that your former spouse may receive. If you are entitled to Social Security benefits based on your own work, that does not mean that you are disqualified from also receiving benefits based on your former spouse’s Social Security benefits.

If you do remarry after your divorce, then generally you will not be able to collect Social Security benefits based on your first marriage. However, if your second marriage also ends, regardless of whether it ends in divorce or death, you may still be able to apply to receive Social Security benefits based on your first marriage. Moreover, if your former spouse has passed away, you may still be entitled to survivor’s benefits, just as would be possible if you had remained married.

Divorce can create financial difficulties, but Social Security should not always be a source of stress . and we’ll discuss how a divorce may impact your retirement.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google