I’m divorced. Can I get my ex’s Social Security benefits?

Q. I am separated from the father of my children. I am now 64 years old. Can I receive his Social Security benefits if he died before me, or if I can enjoy his benefits now? I have been receiving disability benefits since 2001 and a friend told me I was eligible for part of his benefit.

– Divorced

A. Your boyfriend is right that you may be entitled to benefits from your ex-spouse.

This is how it works.

If a person is 62, unmarried, and divorced from someone who is entitled to a pension or disability benefit, they may qualify for benefits based on their ex’s file, said Joseph Sarnecki, a certified financial planner at US Financial Services in Fairfield.

To qualify, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for 10 years or more, he said.

“If you have since remarried, you will not be able to receive benefits unless your subsequent marriage has ended through divorce, annulment or death,” he said. “If you are entitled to a benefit on your own records, your benefit amount must be less than the benefit to which you are entitled to your ex-spouse.”

In other words, Social Security will pay the higher of the two benefits, Sarnecki said.

If your ex has not yet applied for a pension, but can qualify for it, you can receive a benefit based on the income of the ex-spouse, provided you meet the other requirements and have been divorced for at least two years , he said.

If you decide to wait until full retirement age to register as a divorced spouse, your benefit will be equal to half of your ex-spouse’s full pension or disability benefit.

“Starting before full retirement age leads to a lower benefit,” he says. “The amount of benefits you receive will not affect your ex-spouse’s benefits.” You can apply for benefits online by going to SSA.gov or by making an appointment with your local Social Security office.

“You will most likely need to have your ex’s Social Security number or date and place of birth and your parents’ names,” he said.

Mail your questions to [email protected].

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com‘s weekly e-newsletter.

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