How Much of My Social Security Benefit Can My Ex Take From Me?

Stealing money
Photo by esthermm / Shutterstock.com

Welcome to the Social Security Q&A. You ask a Social Security question, our expert provides the answer.

You can learn how to ask a question of your own below. And if you would like a personalized report detailing your optimal Social Security claiming strategy, click here. Check it out: It could result in receiving thousands of dollars more in benefits over your lifetime!

Today’s question comes from Mike:

“Can you answer a Social Security question for me? I was divorced in 2013, and I heard my ex can claim my Social Security benefits. So, will I even get a check, and how much will she be able to take from me?”

Not as bleak as it seems

Mike, I am pleased to let you know that your situation is nowhere near as bleak as you suggest. Your ex may or may not be able to claim some benefits on your Social Security record. The good news for you is that even if she does qualify for benefits on your record, it will cost you nothing. Let me explain.

First, you don’t say how long your marriage lasted. For your ex to qualify for benefits on your record, your marriage needs to have lasted at least 10 years. Anything shorter means that she does not qualify for benefits after your divorce.

A second requirement for an ex-spousal benefit is that she cannot be remarried at the time of the application for benefits on your record. If she remarries and then divorces again, she remains potentially eligible for benefits on your record unless she remarries again.

Even if the above requirements are met, she still may not qualify for benefits. It depends on the amount of her own Social Security benefits relative to her potential ex-spousal benefit.

The calculation is done by comparing full retirement age (FRA) benefits. The maximum ex-spousal benefit equals one-half of your FRA benefit. If her own benefit exceeds one-half of this amount, she will not receive any ex-spousal benefits. If her own benefit is less than one-half this amount, she receives something in ex-spousal benefits, with the exact amount depending again on the FRA benefit amounts mentioned above.

Here is an illustration:

Suppose your FRA benefit amount is $2,000. Her maximum ex-spousal benefit, if she has no benefit on her own, would be $1,000.

If she has her own benefits, that $1,000 is reduced by the amount of her own FRA benefit. Suppose her own FRA benefit is $700. In that case, she qualifies for an ex-spousal benefit of $300 at her FRA, bringing her total benefit to $1,000.

Of course, if she claims earlier than her FRA, her actual benefits will be less than the amounts mentioned here.

As previously noted, if she eventually does receive an ex-spousal benefit, it will have no impact on your benefit, or on your current spouse’s benefit if you remarry. If fact, the Social Security Administration will not even inform you that an ex-spousal benefit is being paid on your record.

Got a question you’d like answered?

You can ask a question simply by hitting “reply” to our email newsletter, just as you would with any email in your inbox. If you’re not subscribed, fix that right now by clicking here. It’s free, only takes a few seconds, and will get you valuable information every day!

The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. So, it’s better not to ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you.

About me

I hold a doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin and taught economics at the University of Delaware for many years.

In 2009, I co-founded SocialSecurityChoices.com, an internet company that provides advice on Social Security claiming decisions. You can learn more about that by clicking here.

Disclaimer: We strive to provide accurate information with regard to the subject matter covered. It is offered with the understanding that we are not offering legal, accounting, investment or other professional advice or services, and that the SSA alone makes all final determinations on your eligibility for benefits and the benefit amounts. Our advice on claiming strategies does not comprise a comprehensive financial plan. You should consult with your financial adviser regarding your individual situation.

Find the right financial adviser

Finding a financial adviser you can trust doesn't have to be hard. A great place to start is with SmartAsset's free financial adviser matching tool, which connects you with up to three qualified financial advisers in five minutes. Each adviser is vetted by SmartAsset and is legally required to act in your best interests.

If you're ready to be matched with local advisers who will help you reach your financial goals, get started now.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
20 Generic Brands That Amazon Created
20 Generic Brands That Amazon Created

Amazon’s growing collection of private brands offers everything from toilet paper and coffee to motor oil and clothing.

What’s the Difference Between FICO and VantageScore Credit Scores?
What’s the Difference Between FICO and VantageScore Credit Scores?

There are lots of credit scores out there, but if you’re keeping an eye on your credit, here’s the one to watch.

How to Invest in Real Estate for as Little as $500
How to Invest in Real Estate for as Little as $500

If stock market volatility has you looking for other investment options, here’s a way to diversify — even if you don’t have tons of money.

8 Key Steps to Planning for Retirement as a Couple
8 Key Steps to Planning for Retirement as a Couple

Ready for retirement? Not so fast. You might be surprised at some of the issues that come up for couples when they plan.

The 2 Biggest Retirement Fears of Baby Boomers
The 2 Biggest Retirement Fears of Baby Boomers

Boomers have a lot of worries as they age, but two stand out.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security
This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security

Both men and women are most likely to start receiving Social Security benefits at this age.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s
6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s

We love Trader Joe’s for plenty of reasons. But think twice about this handful of products.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet
11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

It’s scandalously easy to overspend in these areas of your life.

9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value
9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value

Homeowners, beware these mistakes that can drive away potential buyers.

This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car
This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car

Looking for a good deal on a set of wheels? This should be your first stop.

10 Things That Really Are Free on Amazon
10 Things That Really Are Free on Amazon

These freebies are available to anyone — no Prime membership necessary.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

11 Disgusting Household Items You Should Toss Already
11 Disgusting Household Items You Should Toss Already

Never keep these items past their prime.

10 Surprising Foods You Can Freeze — and How I Freeze Them
10 Surprising Foods You Can Freeze — and How I Freeze Them

How many of the foods have you thought to put in the freezer?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.