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When do spouse's and divorced spouse's insurance benefits end?

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

322. When do spouse's and divorced spouse's insurance benefits end?

Spouse's or divorced spouse's insurance benefits end when any of the conditions below are met:

  1. The spouse dies;

  2. The worker dies (in this case the spouse may be entitled to widow(er)'s, mother's, or father's benefits);

  3. The worker's entitlement to disability insurance benefits ends and he or she is not entitled to retirement insurance benefits (unless the divorce spouse meets the requirements for an independently entitled divorced spouse, as explained in §311);

  4. The spouse is under age 62 and there no longer is a child of the worker under age 16 or disabled who is entitled to child's insurance benefits;

  5. The spouse becomes entitled to retirement or disability insurance benefits and his or her primary insurance amount is at least one-half of the worker's primary insurance amount;

  6. The spouse and the worker are divorced, unless:

    1. The spouse had already turned 62 when the divorce became final; and

    2. The spouse and the worker had been married for 10 years before the date the divorce became final;

  7. The spouse qualified for benefits only under the conditions explained in §306, and one of the following events occurs:

    1. The spouse enters into a valid marriage with someone other than the worker;

    2. Prior to January 1991, monthly benefits are awarded on the same earnings record to another person who qualifies as the legal spouse of the worker under the conditions in § 306; or

    3. Prior to January 1991, the spouse obtains a divorce from the worker;

  8. The spouse qualified for benefits only under the conditions explained in § 306 and later learns that the marriage is invalid;

  9. The divorced spouse marries someone other than the worker. However, the divorced spouse's benefit will not be ended by marrying an individual entitled to divorced spouse's, widow(er)'s, mother's, father's, or parent's monthly benefits, or to an individual age 18 or over who is entitled to childhood disability benefits; or

  10. For an independently entitled divorced spouse, the worker is no longer fully insured or he or she marries the worker.

A spouse is not entitled to spouse's insurance benefits for the month in which any one of the above events occurs.

Last Revised: Feb. 6, 2003

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There are 4 Comments

My wife and I are getting a divorce. She does not work and I receive disability, will my benefits change? Will she be entitled to my benefits? We have been married 13 years and have 2 children if that matters. Thanks.

You will want to confirm with the SSA regarding your particular situation. For example, any possible benefits for your children will depend on their age.

The amount of benefits payable to your divorced spouse has no effect on the amount of benefits you may receive.

Your children may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. To receive benefits, the child must be unmarried and be under age 18 (19 in some cases).

Your soon-to-be ex-wife may also qualify for benefits she is caring for your child under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits.

My ex husband and I were married for 10 years. We divorced three months, after our 10 years of marriage. We have two children together under the age of 18. He is a veteran ,and he remarried. Do our two children qualify for any Social Security or Veteran benefits? (he is working). His age is 45.

I'm not familiar with Veteran benefits. I am aware of three primary ways for children to get Social Security benefits :

  • Be the child of a retired or disabled worker
  • Be the surviving child of a deceased worker
  • Be a disabled child (and parents meet low income/asset requirements)

Based on your statement, I don't see how your children can qualify for Social Security benefits. In other words, there is no child benefit for the simple matter of divorce.

As your marriage lasted 10 years you, yourself, likely will qualify for Social Security retirement benefits based on his record. However, remarriage before age 60 generally will disqualify you for these benefits.

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