The federal government uses Social Security tax for American citizens when they retire. People who reach retirement age and have paid these taxes receive monthly payments from the government until they die. Not only can you stand to gain from these benefits, but your spouse and even your ex-spouse (ex-husband or ex-wife) can as well.
Retirement Benefits for Ex-spouses
Your spouse qualifies for Social Security benefits based on your work record and Social Security tax payment, even if she worked and paid her own Social Security tax. In the same manner, if you are divorced and your ex-spouse is alive, she is also entitled to receive the same benefits if she meets all the requirements. The amount of benefits your ex-spouse receives based on your work records does not reduce your benefits nor the benefits of your current spouse.
For your ex-spouse to be able to receive benefits under your work records, she must have remained unmarried from the date of your divorce, and your marriage with her must have lasted for at least 10 years. Your spouse can receive benefits once she reaches age 62, even though full retirement age is 66, or 67 for people born after 1960. She is not eligible to receive benefits based on your record if you have not yet started to receive your benefits. For this purpose, either disability benefits or retirement benefits count. If your ex-spouse has worked and she is also entitled to receive her own benefits, this amount must be lower than the benefits she receives from your work.
Amount of Benefits
The amount of benefits your spouse is entitled to receive from your work record depends on the age at which she retires. If she retires at full retirement age, she is entitled to an amount that equals 50 percent of your total benefits amount. If she decides to retire earlier, for example at age 62, she is entitled to a reduced amount. If your ex-spouse retires at age 62, she receives 37.5 percent of your benefits if her full retirement age is 65, 35 percent if full retirement age is 66 and 32.5 percent if retirement age is at age 67.
Your Ex-spouse's Own Benefits
If your ex-spouse is also entitled to receive retirement benefits for her own work, this amount is usually paid before whatever she is entitled to receive from your work. She may elect to receive your benefits first and delay her own benefits until full retirement age. If your ex-spouse decides to do that, the delay causes her own benefits to increase. If she decides to receive both benefits at the same time and the benefits she receives from your work are higher than her benefits, the Social Security office pays her a combination of benefits that equals the highest amount your ex-spouse is entitled to receive.
Ronald Kimmons has been a professional writer and translator since 2006, with writings appearing in publications such as "Chinese Literature Today." He studied at Brigham Young University as an undergraduate, getting a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese.