By Sarah Foster
As a spouse, you have the option of claiming a Social Security retirement benefit based on your own earnings record or collecting a spousal benefit in the amount of 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefit. You are automatically entitled to whichever benefit is higher and you can collect on your spouse’s record even if you have never worked yourself.
You can collect benefits as a divorced spouse on your ex-spouse’s record (even if the ex-spouse has remarried and even if the ex-spouse’s new spouse is collecting on the same record) if you meet certain requirements:
(1) You were married for at least 10 years;
(2) You are at least 62 years old;
(3) Your ex-spouse is eligible for retirement benefits; and
(4) You are unmarried.
If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least two years.
If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who has passed away, you could still be eligible for survivors benefits if the marriage lasted ten years or more. Survivors benefits are equivalent to the deceased spouse’s full Social Security benefit amount.
However, if you remarry before the age of 60, you cannot collect survivors benefits (unless the later marriage ends for any reason). If you remarry after age 60, you can still receive survivors benefits based on your former spouse’s record. However, if your new spouse if also collecting Social Security benefits and you would receive a higher amount based on the new spouse’s record, you will receive the higher amount.
Additionally if you are caring for a child under age 16 or disabled who is getting benefits on the record of your former spouse, you would not have to meet the 10-year marriage rule.
See here for more information.