Are you missing out on spousal benefits you are entitled to from Social Security?

Understanding spousal benefits is critical to your long-term planning in retirement. In a nutshell, spousal benefits can provide income in retirement to current, widowed, and ex-spouses. Unfortunately, spousal options are commonly overlooked in planning for Social Security benefits.

Divorced Spouse Benefits

Divorced Spouse

A frequent source of confusion for many is knowing what benefits a divorced spouse is entitled to. 

If you were married for more than 10 years before getting divorced, you are entitled to the same spousal filing options and benefits as if you were married, provided you haven’t remarried and your ex-spouse qualifies for Social Security benefits. Remarrying makes you ineligible for your ex-spouse’s benefits – you are attached to your new spouse, regardless of age.

Under spousal benefit regulations, the lower earning spouse receives the greater of his or her own Social Security benefit or one-half of your spouse’s full Social Security benefit. The same holds true for divorced spouses.

Claiming spousal benefits as an ex-spouse, however, is not straightforward. Social Security is not going to connect the dots for you. If you are married, the system easily connects you to your spouse and makes applying for Social Security spousal benefits easier. That is not the case with divorced spouses. You will have to bring your eligibility to attention of the Social Security. They will most likely have you provide a marriage certificate and divorce agreement, and prove that you were married for over 10 years. But if you do that, then you can draw your spousal benefit.

As a divorced spouse, one advantage you receive that you would not if you were still married is that you can draw your one-half spousal benefit even if your ex-spouse is not. For example, if you are 62 but your ex-spouse is not yet drawing, or has been putting off drawing his or her Social Security benefits, you are still able to receive your spousal benefit of one-half. This can be significant because once you reach full retirement age, spousal benefits do not increase. Unlike individual benefits, there is no added benefit in waiting to draw spousal benefits.


Survivor Benefits

Even if you are already drawing your Social Security benefits, you should be knowledgeable about how survivor benefits work.  

If you are divorced and your ex-spouse passes away, you could be eligible for the same benefits as a widow or widower, provided you were married for at least 10 years. Survivor benefits allow you to receive your ex-spouse’s benefits.

As a divorced spouse, though, no one is going to tell you that. Social Security is not going to do it for you. You will need to go down to office and apply for what is rightfully yours.


Social Security benefits can be confusing, and there are many areas that you may not be aware of. If you have questions about how you can maximize your Social Security benefits, call our office at (865) 862-6800 or email askjim@broganfinancial.com.