Do You Lose Any Social Security Benefits If Your Ex Claims on Your Work Record? | Smart Change: Personal Finance


Many retirees claim Social Security benefits based on their own work history. Their monthly checks are based on their inflation-adjusted average earnings over the course of their career.

But that’s not the case for everyone. Millions of seniors claim benefits based on their spouse’s work history. Spousal benefits could equal as much as 50% of the primary insured’s benefit amount. And these spousal benefits aren’t just available to current spouses. In some cases, ex-spouses will be entitled to them as well.

If you have an ex whom you suspect will be claiming benefits based on your career record, you might be wondering what exactly this means for you. Here’s what you need to know.

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Could your ex-spouse’s claim affect your benefits?

If you are divorced, your ex-spouse is allowed to claim benefits on your work record if your marriage lasted for at least a decade and your ex has not remarried. Typically, it would make sense for your ex to do this only if you were the higher earner in the marriage and spousal benefits are higher than what the former partner would otherwise receive, or if your ex didn’t work and pay into the system for long enough to be eligible for benefits.

If your ex wants to claim spousal benefits, you don’t get to opt out of this, and it has nothing to do with any divorce settlement that you may reach. It’s a Social Security rule. And, in fact, you typically won’t even know if and when your ex claims spousal benefits unless your former partner chooses to tell you; the Social Security Administration doesn’t notify you for privacy reasons.