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Is My Ex-wife Entitled To My Social Security Benefits?

Adam Kuśmierz

Not too long ago someone wrote to me asking me to answer a question in a financial column I write.

The question is too just good to not repeat, so here it is verbatum…

“I have been married to my ex wife for 6 1/2 years. We still live together but we are not married. Is she entitled to survivor benefits? We are now 16+ years and we have had kids after our divorce. Please explain.”

I had to make a few assumptions here: the reader was married for 6 ½ years. Then got divorced. But by saying they had been together for a total of 16+ years, I assume they were married 6 ½ years, divorced, but stayed together another 10 years after that.

And, just to keep things interesting, they had children together after the divorce.

The question was “is she entitled to survivor benefits?”


I asked a trusted contact I have within Social Security about this situation and here’s the response I got:

“In order for a divorced widow to receive aged survivor benefits,” my contact said, “the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.”

So, if your ex-wife applied for Social Security benefits due to the fact that you were once married, she would be denied. You were married for 6 ½ years, not 10.

In that scenario, the answer is no.

But my contact also informed me…

“However, if a young divorced mother has children under age 16 in her care, she can receive benefits as a surviving divorced mother even if the marriage did not last 10 years. The surviving divorced mother’s benefits would terminate when the youngest child reaches age 16 and she would not be due benefits as an aged widow (divorced and married less than 10 years).”

So, if you’ve been together 16 years, but divorced after six and had children after that, it sounds like the kids are all under 10 years of age. If that is the case, your ex-wife and mother of your children would be available to “surviving divorced mother’s benefits,” which would last only until your youngest child reached age 16.

I can only guess as to why this question was asked. Perhaps someone was given a scary diagnosis from a doctor and is very aware of their own mortality.

Or you may be feeling a twinge of responsibility to take care of the mother of your children in the event something happens to you.

It appears Social Security may do a part of the job, if the circumstances are just right. But that solution will only be temporary.

If you’re looking for a longer-term solution to her financial security, you’ll have to put that kind of a plan together yourself. It will probably involve some level of regular saving and the strategic acquisition of some life insurance on yourself.

We live in an age where it is possible to get a divorce, still live together and have children together.  However, not all the benefits of marriage are fully transferable at divorce.

In this case, full Social Security and long-term security for the mother of your children are not benefits that can be so easily transferred.

Byron is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Director of the Planning Group at Argent Advisors, Inc.
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