Can You Draw a Spousal Social Benefit if You are Divorced?

And what does “dually entitled” mean?

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You may still be eligible to draw a spousal Social Security benefit even if you are divorced. A divorced person is eligible for spousal benefits only if their marriage lasted at least 10 years, they remain unmarried, and have attained age 62. This benefit has no effect on the benefits of the former spouse or their current spouse if remarried. This is true even if your former spouse is deceased, as long as your former spouse worked long enough to earn a Social Security retirement benefit. You may be eligible for a survivor’s benefit if your marriage lasted at least 10 years and you are at least age 60 (50 if you are disabled).

You should carefully consider a strategy for drawing benefits if you have earned benefits through your own work history as well as through spousal eligibility. You are considered to be “dually entitled,” but this doesn’t mean you get both benefits added together. Simply, you qualify for more than one benefit and may choose to receive the benefit amount that is higher. However, you can switch benefits at a later date.

You could begin receiving benefits as a survivor when you reach age 60. The benefits will be reduced because you are starting to draw before you reach full retirement age. You can switch to your own Social Security benefit based on your own work history at full retirement age. This same strategy works for a divorced person when they reach age 62. If a divorced spouse earns a benefit that is more than 50% of the spousal benefit, they can start drawing the spousal benefit at age 62, then switch to their own benefit at full retirement age. You can file for spousal benefits even if your ex isn’t receiving his or her own benefits (so long as your divorce has been final for two years).

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