A married person can collect retirement benefits based on his or her own earnings from work, or an amount equal to 50 percent of the other spouse's retired-worker benefit—whichever is the higher amount. The following examples illustrate how these benefits are calculated.

Example: Mrs. Williams will get a retirement benefit of $1,200 a month based on her work record. Mr. Williams is entitled to a retirement benefit of $500 a month based on his own work history. He will receive his own $500, plus an additional $100 to bring his total to $600 a month, based on 50 percent of Mrs. Williams' benefit. Total family benefits for the Williams household will be $1,800 a month.

Example: Mrs. Rodriguez is entitled to a retirement benefit of $1,100 a month based on her work history. Her husband will get a benefit of $1,400, which would provide a spousal benefit of $700. Mrs. Rodriguez receives her own benefit of $1,100 a month, because that is the larger of the two amounts. Total family retirement benefits: $2,500 a month.

How does divorce affect Social Security benefits? A person who had been married for at least ten consecutive years–and is now single– can get the 50 percent spousal benefit even if the couple has divorced. A surviving divorced spouse can get the 100 percent survivor benefit if unmarried or remarried after the age of 60. A disabled former spouse is eligible for this benefit at age 50.

Example: Fred and Mary Simmons were married for twelve years and are now divorced. Fred is retiring at age 65 and drawing $1,300 in Social Security benefits. Mary, who is single and age 65, can draw a benefit of $650 a month. Upon Fred's death, she can receive $1,300 a month.

For more information, see:

Read what some Academy members think:*

* The views of Academy members are their own and not an official position of the National Academy of Social Insurance or its funders.

How can we help you?

Media Inquiries
Sponsorship Opportunities
Membership
Partnerships

Stay up-to-date on the latest research & policy updates.

Subscribe to our newsletter