Exes Can Collect Social Security Spousal and Survivors Benefits

Many divorced and divorcing Colorado couples don't realize that they may be entitled to benefits they hadn't considered when planning their financial future as a single person. These are Social Security benefits based on the earnings of their ex-spouse. Indeed, ex-spouses may be able to receive spousal as well as survivors' benefits. These benefits could potentially add a substantial amount to their income over time.

There are a couple of important requirements that ex-spouses must meet to get those benefits:

-- First, the spouses must have been married for at least 10 years.

-- Second, an ex-spouse cannot receive spousal benefits unless he or she is not married. That means that if a person remarries, he or she cannot qualify for an ex's benefits unless and until the subsequent marriage ends. However, if an ex-spouse is receiving survivors' benefits remarries after the age of 60, the benefits can continue.

Beyond those two differences, the requirements are basically the same for ex-spouses as for current spouses:

-- Survivors' benefits can be paid any time after the recipient reaches 60, unless he or she is disabled. If that is the case, they may be able to qualify at just 50-years-old.

-- Spousal benefits can be paid any time after the recipient turns 62.

In many cases, the longer a person can wait to begin collecting Social Security benefits, the greater those benefits will be over the years. It's generally a good idea to consult with a financial advisor to determine what the best course of action is to maximize the benefits (both your ex's and your own) to which you are entitled.

During your divorce, you may also want to discuss these benefits with your family law attorney. This can help you map out your plan for what kind of support you will need in the years ahead.

Source: Bankrate, "Social Security's divorce and survivors benefits for same-sex married couples," Liz Weston, accessed July 13, 2015