Collecting Social Security benefits after divorce

Figuring out finances for post-divorce life can be a challenge. There is no questioning the financial strain some may feel when dividing assets and losing household income in a divorce. For New York residents who are heading into their retirement years, Social Security benefits can help ease the monetary strain, but, are all former spouses eligible to receive these benefits?

Believe it or not, an ex-spouse may be entitled to Social Security benefits based on his or her former husband or wife's employment history. This is not granted to everyone and certain requirements must be met before these payments will be processed. Some of the factors that are considered include the length of the marriage, the age of the spouse requesting the benefit and the requesting individual's current marital status.

Social Security benefits collected by a former spouse will not affect the amount the other receives. This is also a benefit that can be utilized without the need to report it to a former spouse. Certain information is needed when applying for this benefit, including the ex-spouse's Social Security number or birth date, place of birth and parents' names. In addition, a copy of the marriage certificate and divorce decree and other documents that prove identity, such as tax forms or a birth certificate, may also be required.

The ability for an ex-spouse to claim Social Security benefits based on a former spouse's work history can make a significant difference to financial security in retirement years. Collecting this benefit can be a complex process, but help is available when the time comes to apply. Receiving this benefit does not affect any financial terms set during divorce proceedings in New York, but, instead, could simply be considered an added bonus and something to considered when reviewing post-divorce finances.

Source:, "What you should know about Social Security and divorce", Flint Stephens, Dec. 9, 2014

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