Q&A: Can someone who has remarried claim survivor benefits from a deceased former husband?

Dear Liz: Can someone who has remarried claim survivor benefits from a deceased former husband?

Answer: Possibly, if the marriage lasted at least 10 years, the divorce occurred at least two years ago and she remarried at age 60 or later.

Divorced survivor benefits can be up to 100% of the former husband’s benefit. The amount would be reduced if the ex-wife applies before her own full retirement age, which is currently between 66 and 67. (Survivor benefits could be further reduced or even eliminated if the ex-wife receives a pension from a job that didn’t pay into Social Security, under the “government pension offset” rules.) If the ex-wife has earned a Social Security benefit of her own, she would get the larger of the two checks rather than both amounts.

The rules for divorced survivor benefits are different from those for divorced spousal benefits. Divorced spousal benefits may be available while the ex-husband is still alive, but only if the ex-wife hasn’t remarried. Also, divorced spousal benefits max out at 50% of the ex-husband’s benefit.


  1. Linda Bartz says

    Dear Liz,
    Before getting divorced, I was married for more than ten years. Currently, I ahve not remarried and I am under the age of sixty. Now, I am wondering at what age can I receive my ex-spouses Social Security benefits. Also, does the fact that I am currently working impact my being able to collect this benefit and must my current income be below some level.

    • Divorced survivor benefits are available as early as age 60, but you would be subject to the earnings test that reduces your benefit by $1 for every $2 over a certain amount. The earnings test goes away at your full retirement age of 67.