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Can I Collect Social Security Benefits from my Ex-Husband's Earnings from When I was Married?

written by: Kimberly Johnson•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 3/13/2011

Just because a couple divorces does not mean that the wife loses social security eligibility. Although there are some important criteria to meet, the answer to "Can I collect social security benefits from my ex-husband?" is often yes.

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    I Can Collect Social Security from My Ex?

    Social Security Card When retirement age approaches, many women ask themselves “Can I collect social security benefits from my ex-husband"? Often, women who are divorced do not realize that they are eligible to receive part of their ex-spouse’s benefits. In fact, spousal benefits can be collected, even if the ex-husband has not himself begun to collect benefits. This is an important part of retirement planning that every woman who has been married should educate herself about so she can collect income that is due her.

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    Eligibility Requirements


    The eligibility requirements for collecting social security benefits from an ex-spouse focus mainly on age. If your ex husband is still living, you must be at least 62 years old to begin collecting social security benefits. If your ex husband is deceased, you can begin collecting benefits at an age slightly earlier at age 60, or at age 50 if you are disabled.

    Length of Marriage

    In order to be eligible for your ex husband’s benefits, the marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years.

    Amount of Benefits

    To receive an ex spouse’s benefits, his benefits must be greater than what you would collect on your own. This impacts working women the most since they may collect more from their own qualifications than that of their ex husband.

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    Collecting Benefits Before Your Ex Husband

    There is one more case in which you can collect benefits, and that is if your ex spouse is still alive but has not yet begun to collect social security benefits. As long as he is of the proper retirement age, currently 62, and is eligible to collect benefits you can claim them even if he has not begun to. The only catch to this rule is that you must have been divorced for at least two full years before you can claim his benefits.

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    Benefit Amounts

    The amount of money that you receive form your ex husband’s social security varies based on what he receives, or did receive, if he is dead. If your ex husband is deceased, the benefits you receive will be lower than if he was alive.

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    How to Apply for Ex Spouse Social Security Benefits

    In order to start the process of claiming your ex husband’s social security benefits, the first step is to determine how much money you qualify for based on your own work experience. You can do this by filling out form 7004 on the SSA website and sending it in. In four to six weeks you will receive an explanation of how much social security money you are eligible for.

    Then call up the Social Security Administration office to begin the process of filing for your ex spouse's benefits. You must provide his social security number, which should be available on old tax returns or financial documents. If you cannot locate his social security number, you must provide his full date of birth, the city and state of his birth location and the names of his parents. You will also need the divorce decree which you will need to mail or fax a copy of to the SSA. In addition, the representative will ask you questions that will prove you are truly the ex spouse

    So, if you are wondering “Can I collect social security benefits from my ex-husband?" the answer is most likely yes. Contact the Social Security Administration to determine the exact amount of your ex spouse social security benefits.

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    Social Security Administration:

    The New York Times:

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    Image Credit

    Social Security Card: Via Wikimeida Commons Public Domain