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How does a divorce affect your marital status?

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at


308. How does a divorce affect your marital status?

A divorce decree has one of three possible effects:

  1. In some States, divorce immediately returns your status to that of a single person, without restriction as to remarriage;

  2. In other States, while you are no longer a husband or wife after the judgment of divorce, State law or the divorce decree prohibits you from remarrying for a certain period; e.g., during a stated waiting period; or

  3. In still other States, the dissolution of your marriage is postponed for a stated period following the judgment of divorce. Sometimes, the parties to the divorce or the court must take additional action to make a divorce final and thereby dissolve the marriage.

Last Revised: March, 2001

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There are 10 Comments

If a man was married for 10 years, had 2 children out of that marriage, got divorced and remarried 2 years later. He is 50 years old now. He has been married for the second time for 6 years and still married. If something happens to him would the second wife receive his benefits? His children as of now if 15 and 17. I'm thinking the children would receive benefits also until 18 years old.
Would you please confirm this information.

Generally, a person can qualify for widow's or widower's benefits if he or she was married to the deceased worker for at least nine months just before the worker died.

In general, children from a previous marriage and a former (unmarried) wife may also receive survivor benefits. These benefits are independent of each other.

Please contact Social Security directly for your particular case.

Hi, my wife announced she wants a divorce. As she is the primary income and I receive disability benefits, will my amount change?

I'll assume you're on "standard" disability rather than SSI. If you're on standard disability, the divorce should not affect your benefits. If you're on SSI, the divorce may increase your benefits.

Please contact Social Security for your particular case.

My husband and I have been arguing for years and I am ready to move on with my life and find closure to a failed realtionship. He draws Social Security Disability Income based on my income. How will his disability be affected by our divorce? I care about him and dont want him to lose the benefits he has had to fight for to get.

Please contact the SSA directly for this. There are omitted details (ex. age, dependent children, husband's work history, if any) which may affect the answer.

I will be retiring at 61, in a couple months. Was married 29 yrs (neither of us remarried). He past away a year ago. He made much more than I do. Am I still entitled to his Social Security? If so what do I take with me when I apply?

Yes, based on your statement (not remarried, married more than 10 years) you'll likely qualify for survivor benefits on his record.

You can receive survivor benefits as early as age 60, but waiting additional months or years will increase your monthly benefit.

As far as documents, you'll need things such as death certificate, divorce papers etc.

I was married for 38 years, and have been divorced for 2 years. I am age 60 (August 2, 1951) and plan to take SS benefits as soon as eligible. My ex-husband is age 61, and soon will be age 62 and eligible to draw benefits. When I am eligible at age 62, will I be entitled to the same SS benefit as my ex-hurband? I have heard that I can file on my ex-husband's account. Does this mean that I will be entitled to the SS benefits that are available to my ex-husband? Please explain.

Based on your statements, you likely will qualify for benefits based on your husband's work record.

If you are divorced, and your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse's record (even if he or she has remarried) if:

  • You are unmarried;
  • You are age 62 or older;
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work.

The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the amount of benefits your ex-spouse or their current spouse may receive.

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