“After our divorce becomes final, am I entitled to any of my ex-spouse’s disability, retirement or social security benefits?”
You are entitled to a divorced spouse’s insurance benefits on the worker’s Social Security record if:
The worker is entitled to retirement or disability insurance benefits;
You have filed an application for divorced spouse’s benefits;
You are not entitled to a retirement or disability insurance benefit based on a primary insurance amount which equals or exceeds one-half the worker’s primary insurance amount;
You are age 62 or over;
You are not married; and
You were married to the worker for 10 years before the date the divorce became final.
If your ex-spouse has not applied for benefits, but can qualify for them and is age 62 or older, you can receive benefits on his record if you have been divorced from him for at least two years and meet the requirements listed above.
If your ex-husband is deceased, you can receive benefits on his record even though you were not married to him for 10 years —
if you are caring for his child who also is your natural or legally adopted child and is under age 16 or disabled;
you are unmarried; and
you are not entitled to an equal or higher amount on your own record.
Your benefits will continue until the child reaches age 16 or the child’s disability ceases.
The amount of benefits you receive, as a divorced spouse does not affect the amount of benefits another spouse receives on your ex-spouse’s record.
Many spouses get a higher benefit based on their ex-spouse’s work record than they get on their own record, especially if he/she is deceased.
When you apply for benefits, you will need to give his/her Social Security number. If you don’t know his/her number, you’ll need to provide his date and place of birth and his parents’ names.
(Information from SSA Publication No. 05-10127, April 2003, Pages 14-15 and Social Security Handbook Section 311)
Phil Shechter is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and senior partner at Berenfeld in Miami. He has been practicing accounting since 1982.