Divorced Individuals

If you are divorced, you face a variety of Social Security concerns that is best summed up – from both parties’ perspectives – as “you may not be quite as divorced as you thought you were.”


Because the situations of divorced persons vary dramatically:

  • No children?
  • Children?
  • No custody of children?
  • Shared custody of children?
  • Sole custody of children?
  • Ages of children?
  • Higher wage earner?
  • Lower wage earner?
  • Parties’ ages?
  • Special terms in your divorce agreement?

I’m not going to attempt to present every scenario, but rather a simple illustrative example. Because of the complexity of these situations and the impact of all the potential variables, including the best interests of any children that are involved, I strongly suggest a meeting in these circumstances.


That said, here’s a simple scenario to demonstrate the power of a visit with me.

The Scenario:

You are an independent 58 years of age, your Full Retirement Age (FRA) is 66, and your life expectancy is 85 years.

Strategy 1:

Being divorced and single, you feel that $1,344 would help your monthly budget, so you decide to claim your Social Security benefits at age 62.

Divorced Individual Chart 1

However, after some thought, you decide to explore another option, seeking the advice of a retirement specialist, like me.

Strategy 2:

In this case, I would examine 30 different scenarios to determine the one producing the highest value for your lifetime benefits.


All other things remaining equal, you should take spousal benefits in January of 2020, at age 66.


You should take retirement benefits in January of 2024, at age 70.
The total benefits are increased by more than 46% over your lifetime:

Divorced Individual Chart 2

  • Lifetime benefits using selected dates: $342,754.
  • Lifetime benefits using maximized dates: $501,568.

Using maximized strategy 2, lifetime benefits increase by $158,814.


NOTE: All amounts are in today’s dollars. Lifetime benefits are calculated as the present value of all future benefits assuming you live through your maximum age of life. Discounting is non-actuarial and is based on the real rate of return implied by your assumed nominal rate of return and inflation rate.


The following list of factors impacts how the Social Security Administration treats your specific situation under the complex set of rules that govern the provision of benefits to divorced individuals.


If your ex-spouse is living, you can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work if:

  • Your marriage lasted more than 10 years.
  • You are unmarried.
  • You are age 62 or older.
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your work is less than the benefit you would receive from your ex-spouse’s work.
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to social security retirement or disability benefits.

If your ex-spouse is deceased you can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work if:

  • Your marriage lasted more than 10 years.
  • You are age 60 (50 if you are disabled).
  • You are not entitled to a higher benefit on your own record.
  • Also, if you re-marry after age 60 (50 if you are disabled) you may still be entitled to survivor’s benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record.

You may also receive benefits within ten years of your ex-spouse’s death:


At any age if you are caring for your ex-spouse’s child or adopted child, younger than age 16, or disabled and entitled to benefits. The benefits will continue until the child reaches age 16 or is no longer disabled.


For divorced persons, the actions they take have significant consequences – just as dramatic as those I’ve described above for other personal situations and not just for them, but also for their children. This is a situation, to be sure everyone’s interests and needs are addressed, that requires a meeting.


If you haven’t already clicked on “Schedule an Appointment,” perhaps you’d like to take a moment and do it now.