Social Security and Marriage

Marriage is one activity that can start or stop your Social Security benefits. As with most things legal, do not take marriage lightly--unless you are past age 60. Social Security includes retirement, survivors and disability benefits. Marriage, remarriage and divorce directly affect your rights to all of these Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits are gender-neutral and may apply to husband or wife.

Survivor Benefits

If you are currently married and your husband dies, you may be entitled to survivor benefits. This is an annuity payment for your retirement years, available if you do not remarry prior to age 60. If you are divorced but were married ten years to your ex-spouse who is deceased, you may collect survivor benefits as an ex-spouse as early as age 60. You lose benefits if you remarry prior to age 60 and are not entitled to benefits so long as the new marriage is in effect.

Disability Benefits

You may be entitled to Social Security benefits based on a spouse’s disability if you are married. You must be age 62 or caring for a child of the disabled spouse. Disabled spouses may remarry after age 50 without losing benefits. If you are disabled and collecting benefits on your own work history, marriage will not affect your personal benefits. Divorce may affect your disability benefits based on your spouse's disability only if you have not been married 10 years.

Retirement Benefits

You may collect retirement benefits at about 50 percent of the spouse’s benefits based on the spouse’s work history when you are full retirement age. Full retirement age is 66 for individuals born between 1943 and 1954. You may collect about 35 percent of the spouse’s benefits at age 62. If you are divorced, but have not remarried, you may collect from the divorced spouse’s work history under some circumstances. You must have been married 10 years and divorced two years, and the worker spouse must be full retirement age. If you do not remarry until after age 62, you may claim benefits from the divorced spouse or your new spouse. You may also have your own work history and benefits.

Children

If you are caring for children of your divorced retired spouse or a deceased or disabled spouse, you may not have to meet the 10-year marriage rule. If you remarry prior to age 60, you will lose your individual benefits. The child or children can continue to receive benefits until the age of majority, but spousal benefits are a significant loss. Stepchildren can collect benefits under some circumstances, but divorce can cause the stepchild to lose benefits. Check with an attorney before you act.