Social Security Q&A: Can I Claim on My First Ex’s Record After Divorcing?

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Question: I am 63 and get my own Social Security every month. I am still married but separated and planning to divorce soon. My first marriage ended in divorce after 20 years. When I divorce my second husband, am I able to collect Social Security from my first husband, even though I already started to collect from my own Social Security?

Answer: Yes, you can collect on your first husband if he’s 62 or older. And you can collect a widows benefit based on either husband when they die, assuming that your second marriage lasted at least 10 years.

But because you filed for your own retirement benefit, you entered “excess benefit hell.” This means, very roughly speaking, that whenever you file for another benefit, you’ll just get the larger of your own retirement benefit and your auxiliary benefit (i.e., your divorced spousal or divorced widow benefit). Even if you suspend your retirement benefit at full retirement age, you will, between full retirement age and age 70 (when your retirement benefit will automatically recommence), receive only the difference, if positive, between your auxiliary benefit and your reduced retirement benefit, but augmented to include any delayed retirement credits you accrue.

If you are still within one year of collecting you retirement benefit, you can withdraw it by filing the correct form. But doing so will require repaying all the benefits you received so far. However, if you do this, at full retirement age (and not a day before), you can file just for your divorced spousal benefit and collect just that (instead of the difference, if positive, between your divorced spousal benefit and your own retirement benefit), while letting your own retirement benefit grow through age 70.


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