When can I apply for my ex-husband's Social Security benefits?

I am close to the end of my divorce. I am almost 60 years old and disabled. As far as I know, I may only get $300 per month from Social Security, if that. Is there any way can I collect my ex-husband's Social Security benefits now, at age 60?

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Getting divorced won’t impact your right to your spousal benefits under your ex-husband’s work record, but other Social Security rules will limit when you can collect. You will likely have to wait for the retirement benefit, but you do have another option since you are disabled. You may be able to immediately begin collecting a disability benefit based on your ex-husband’s work record.

Contact the Social Security Administration and ask for a summary of your benefits under your ex-husband’s work record. Also ask about applying for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Make sure to ask about both programs, because you might qualify for one even if you don’t qualify for the other. And sadly Social Security personnel are notorious for only answering the exact specific question you ask (since they are legally not allowed to give advice).

Receiving a disability income check could provide you with the funds you need while you wait to collect on the retirement benefit. You would also benefit from talking with a fiduciary and fee-only financial advisor before claiming the retirement benefit to make sure you claim the option which maximizing your income over your life. There are over 700 different claiming strategies for Social Security, and the difference between your optimal strategy and the typical advice can be hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. Advisors can also help you with prudently investing any money you may have received from the divorce settlement, such as your portion of your husband’s 401(k) or other retirement accounts which were split.

Joshua Escalante Troesh is a Tenured Professor of Business and a fiduciary financial adviser who works with people across the country. To explore working with him on your personal financial planning and investment advising needs, simply schedule a free Discover Meeting.

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