Spousal Benefits Explained

Explanation of spousal benefits, entitlement requirements, benefit amount, and a sample calculation. I

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Spousal Benefits
  2. Entitlement Requirements for Spousal Benefits
  3. Benefit Amounts
  4. Divorced Spouse Benefits and Remarriage Requirements


Introduction to Spousal Benefits

Spousal benefits allow a spouse to receive benefits based on their spouse's Social Security earnings record. This is particularly advantageous for spouses who either did not work or had lower lifetime earnings than their spouse.

Entitlement Requirements for Spousal Benefits

To qualify for spousal benefits:

  • The individual must be at least 62 years old.
  • The spouse on whose record the benefit is being claimed must already be receiving retirement or disability benefits.
  • The couple must have been married for at least one year.

Benefit Amounts

The spousal benefit can range from 32.5% to 50% of the higher-earning spouse's full retirement amount, depending on the age at which the lower-earning spouse claims the benefit.

  • If claimed at full retirement age, the spousal benefit is 50% of the higher-earning spouse's benefit.
  • If claimed before full retirement age, the amount is reduced.

Qualifying for Social Security on an Ex-Spouse's Record

To be entitled to an ex-spousal benefit, the claimant must have been married to their ex-spouse for more than 10 years and be unmarried. Additionally, the worker must not be entitled to a retirement or disability benefit that exceeds 50% of the ex-spouse's primary insurance amount.

If the divorced spouse remarries, often they will cease to qualify for an ex-spousal benefit. However, there are some exceptions. A divorced spouse will continue to be eligible for spousal benefits under the former spouse if the new spouse is entitled to any of the following benefits:

  • Widow’s/widower’s benefits
  • Mother’s/father’s benefits
  • Child disability benefits
  • Divorced spousal benefits
  • Parent's benefits

Please review the following Social Security Administration references regarding Divorced Spouses and Remarriage

Qualifying for Social Security Spousal Benefits Under a New Partner

If a spouse loses their ex-spousal benefit due to remarriage, they may qualify for spousal benefits on their new partner’s record. In most cases, the spouse would need to be married to the new spouse for 12 continuous months. Additionally, the spouse must not be entitled to a retirement or disability benefit based on a primary insurance amount (PIA) greater than or equal to 50% of the worker’s PIA and must be at least 62 years of age.

After you remarry, you will not qualify for a spousal benefit for 12 months unless you are the natural mother or father of the worker’s biological child or if you were entitled, or potentially entitled, to any of the following benefits:

  • Wife’s/husband’s benefits
  • Widow’s/widower’s benefits
  • Divorced spouse’s benefits
  • Surviving divorced spouse’s benefits
  • Parent’s benefits
  • Annuity payments under the Railroad Retirement Act for widows, widowers, parents, or children 18 years old or older

If the new spouse is not entitled or is not eligible for a retirement benefit, the divorced spouse would lose their benefit.

You can view the Social Security Administrations Program Operations Manual System policy on Spousal benefit entitlement requirements click here.