Social Security Benefits for Wives & Ex-Wives

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As of 2009, literally millions of wives and ex-wives in the United States were receiving monthly Social Security benefits. Both wives and ex-wives are eligible to receive benefits from one of three Social Security programs – retirement, disability or survivors benefits – if their husbands met eligibility requirements.


The Social Security Administration paid monthly benefits to 2.5 million spouses across the country in 2009. During that year, the Social Security Administration also paid 4.4 million widows and widowers over $4.8 billion in monthly benefits. Overall, over 52 million people received Social Security retirement, disability and survivors benefits that year.


As a wife or ex-wife of a husband who is entitled to disability benefits, you are also eligible to receive payments. Generally you have to be at least 62 years of age, but you can be any age and receive disability benefits based on your husband’s record if you’re caring for his children who are under the age of 16. If you’re an ex-wife, you must have been married to your husband for at least 10 years and must not be married to anyone else at the time you apply for benefits. Your benefit amounts are 50 percent of your current or former husband’s full disability rate.


You may be eligible for Social Security benefits if your current or former husband passes away. To receive survivors benefits, you must be at least 62 years old, though this will be a reduced benefit. You will receive 100 percent of your benefit if you wait until full retirement age, which is 66 if you’re born after 1945 and 67 if you're born after 1962. Generally, early retirement benefits will equal between 71.5 and 99 percent of your benefit, depending on the age of inception. If you are disabled, you may qualify to receive 71.5 percent of your benefit as early as age 50. You can receive 75 percent at any age if you are caring for your deceased husband's or ex-husband's children under the age of 16. Ex-wives caring for children do not have to meet the 10 years of marriage requirement.


You are entitled to Social Security retirement benefits based on your current or former husband’s record if you are at least 62 years of age. As an ex-wife, you must have been married for at least 10 years and must not currently be married to someone else. However, if you remarry, you are eligible for benefits on your former husband’s record after your later marriage ends. Your retirement benefits are one-half of your husband's full benefit rate, reduced if taken prior to full retirement age. If you are eligible to receive retirement benefits on your own record, the Social Security Administration pays those benefits first. If your benefits are less than what you would collect on your husband's record, you receive a combination of payments equal to the higher amount.