Social Security Survivor Benefits for Divorced Spouses in United States

A Divorced Spouse can also get Social Security Survivor Benefits on death of the Ex-Spouse

Social Security Survivor Benefits for Divorced Spouses in United States
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The divorced spouse can also claim social security survivor benefits under certain conditions in the United States, provide the eligibility conditions are fulfilled and SSA is satisfied about them. The conditions under which it is available vary and may or may not be applicable in an individual case. Here is a brief introduction about this benefit.

The Social Security survivor benefits are usually available only to the surviving spouse and children of the deceased. However, in certain cases they may also be available to a divorced spouse.

Social Security Survivor Benefits

Social Security survivor benefits are available to certain family members of a person who is eligible for receiving Social security benefits. Such eligibility is based on working history. The deceased must have sufficient earning credits or QUARTERS in which he/she earned the minimum prescribed amount.

For receiving retirement benefits one needs to have 40 credits or quarters. In 2017, earnings of $1300 in a quarter gives a person one credit, and a maximum of four such credits can be earned in a year. In case of such a person, the family members will be eligible to receive the Social security survivor benefits.

Family members of a person who died young can be eligible for the survivor benefits even with fewer credits. However, the eligible person needs to make an application to the local Social Security Administration office with all documentation to claim these benefits.

Conditions of Eligibility of a Divorced Spouse

(i)   One of the main condition under which a divorced spouse becomes eligible to claim the Social Security survivor benefits on the basis of Social Security benefits due to the deceased, is when she or he is taking care of a minor or a disabled child in his or her care.  The child must be either the biological child or the adopted child of the couple. In such a case, the benefits are not actuarially reduced.

(ii)  Another condition under which the surviving spouse becomes eligible for Social Security survivor benefits is if he or she was married with the deceased for at least ten years, and is either unmarried after that or else has remarried only after the age of sixty years. Such benefits can also be payable to more than one spouse. Further, benefit being paid to a spouse older than 60 years, or older than 50 years if disabled will not affect the benefits to other surviving spouse or spouses.


The restrictions to these benefits exist in the form of minimum period of marriage between the deceased and the surviving divorced spouse. It should be at least ten years. The other major restriction is in terms of the age of beneficiary, which should be at least 60 years, or 50 years in case of a disabled spouse. This restriction may not be applicable in case of a spouse taking care of a child of less than sixteen years of age from their marriage. To claim the benefit the surviving divorced spouse will need to file an application along with all relevant documents including the documentary evidence of the divorce.

Tips to Remember

It is important to note that the Social Security Survivor Benefits are given from the time of application and not from the time of the death of the deceased. Thus, any delay in filing application for Social Security Survivor benefits amount to losing the benefits for the period of delay.

It is also important to remember that a person can claim either his or her own entitlement of Social Security Benefits or the Survivor Benefits. Further, a premature claim can also be made for Social Security Benefits earlier than the retirement age, while delaying the claim of benefits can enhance the benefit. Thus, it is possible for a person to claim her own benefit at an earlier age, and later shift to the survivor benefit, thereby getting an entitlement for higher benefits. For this, it is preferable to seek expert advice and know all details of entitlements and conditions of eligibility before taking a decision.

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