10 Bizarre Things About Social Security - Part 4: Divorces Could Greatly Increase Your Social Security Income

10 Bizarre Things About Social Security - Part 4: Divorces Could Greatly Increase Your Social Security Income

Getting a divorce could substantially increase your Social Security income. This only applies to someone who has been divorced, and later remarried.

If your first marriage lasted at least 10 years before the divorce, listen up! Social Security allows you to claim two unique benefits. A Spousal Benefit and a Survivor Benefit, based upon the benefit amount for your ex-spouse.

Spousal and Survivor Benefits

A Spousal Benefit entitles retirees to 50% of their spouse’s Social Security benefit at their full retirement age. This also applies to ex-spouses.

  • In order to claim a Spousal Benefit as a divorcee, you can never re-marry.

A Survivor Benefit entitles retirees to their deceased spouse's (or ex's) Social Security benefit instead of their own.

  • In order to claim a Survivor benefit as a divorcee, you cannot remarry before age 60. If you wait until 60 to remarry and your ex-spouse later passes away, you can still claim their full Social Security benefit as a Survivor Benefit.


Many divorced people are not aware of the Social Security rules concerning remarriage. That could end up costing them a lot of money! But they could correct their mistake by getting another divorce.


How Divorces Can Increase Your Social Security Income

I know that sounds crazy, but it is true. Here’s how it works with an example:

A divorced woman had a first marriage that lasted more than 10 years. If she were to remarry at age 58, she would no longer be able to claim either a Spousal or Survivor Benefit based on her ex-husband’s benefit amount.

Let’s look at what happens if she claims her own Social Security benefit of $1,200 per month, and her ex-husband receives $2,200.

After twelve years her ex-husband passes away and, because she remarried before 60, she cannot claim her ex-husband’s full benefit. But if she were to divorce her second husband, this could increase her Social Security income.

But, if she had waited until age 60 before she remarried, she would be able to switch to her ex-husband’s much bigger benefit of $2,200 per month and increase her annual income by $12,000. Getting remarried at age 58 ended up costing her a lot of money!

That would all change if the woman divorced her current husband.

After the divorce she would no longer be married and would be eligible to claim a Survivor Benefit and receive his full monthly benefit of $2,200 per month. Getting the second divorce could make her a lot of money -- an extra $12,000 per year for the rest of her life.

Happy Ending

This story can still have a happy ending because the twice divorced woman is now over the age of 60. So after claiming the Survivor Benefit, she can remarry her second husband and continue to receive that Survivor Benefit from her deceased first husband!

Now that’s pretty bizarre! And that's how divorces can increase your Social Security income.


This is Part 4 of a 10 part series. Keep your eyes open for more Social Security tips and advice coming soon.

Part 1: Your Ex-Spouses Could Receive Your Full Social Security Benefit If You Die Before Them

Part 2: Social Security’s Viagra Benefit

Part 3: How to Get a Large Lump Sum Check from Social Security

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