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How Divorce Will Impact Your Social Security Benefits


I’ve been divorced for 13 years and do not plan to remarry. That is bad news for me according to the Social Security Administration. Based on recent data, around 20 percent of divorced women aged 65 or older live in poverty, compared with 18 percent of never-married women and 15 percent of widowed women.

And, the older you become, the higher the level of poverty you will live in. Given the fact that the divorce rate is so high there will be more divorced women when they reach social security retirement age in the future compared to today.

So, what does all this mean for divorced woman when it comes time to collect Security benefits? It means educating yourself and making the right choice when choosing which benefit to draw.

If you never remarry you will more than likely be eligible to collect “divorced-spouse benefits.” The type of benefit you receive will have an impact on your economic well-being at time of retirement.

As a divorced woman you can receive Social Security benefits either as a retired work, a divorced spouse or a surviving divorced spouse. What does all this mean, below is a brief explanation of each.

Retired Worker Benefits:

You will draw Social Security benefits on the basis of your own work history. If your marriage lasted ten years or longer you are entitled to draw benefits from either your ex’s work history or your own. You will have the option of drawing from the larger of the two benefits.

If you’re retired worker benefits are greater you will be classified as a “retired worker” by the Social Security Administration and receive that amount that is greatest.

Divorced Spouse’s Benefits:

You can receive benefits as a divorce spouse on your former spouse’s Social Security if you were married for more than ten years, are at least 62 years of age, are unmarried and your work history benefits are not higher than that of your ex spouse.

Surviving Divorced Spouse Benefits:

If your ex spouse dies you could be entitled to Social Security benefits on his work history if the marriage last ten years or more. If you are a surviving ex who is responsible for a child under the age of 16 or you are disabled the ten years rule does not apply to you. If you do not have a minor child you must be age 60 or disabled and between the ages of 50 and 59.

Signing Up For Divorced Spouse’s Benefits:

Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to apply for benefits or make an appointment and visit your local Social Security office to apply in person. You can also apply online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline. Complete the application, print it off and either take it to your local office or mail it to the Social Security Administration.

Documents You Will Need:

Documents you need will depend on your particular circumstance. Below is a list of documents you will need based on your situation. If you don’t have the needed documents Social Security can help you get them.

  • Your birth certificate,

  • Your naturalization papers if you are an immigrant,

  • Your military discharge papers if you served in the arm forces,

  • One year W-2 form or self-employment tax return

  • Your Social Security number,

  • Your date and place of birth,

  • Your mother’s maiden name,

  • You banks name, your account number and routing number,

  • The name and address of each employer for the last three years,

  • Of all your prior marriages, you will need to provide the name, Social Security number and date of birth of your current and/or any prior spouse, the date and place of each marriage and, if appropriate, the date and place the marriage ended.

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