If you were legally separated or divorced, you can still claim your 'spousal entitlement' based on your ex-spouse's Social Security earning record if you fulfill a few simple requirements. Here's what they are...
First, realize that everyone is entitled to his or her own Social Security benefits that come from their own earnings.
Those who are spouses - or were spouses at one time - also have the option of receiving a 'spouse's entitlement' to some fraction of their spouse's earned Social Security benefits. The actual amount of benefits that any spouse - or ex-spouse - will get will always be either their own Social Security benefit or their 'spouse's entitlement' benefit, whichever is the greater.
The first condition for maintaining a 'spouse's entitlement' after divorce or a legal separation is that you were married to your ex spouse for at least 10 years.
If your ex-spouse is still alive, your 'spousal entitlement' is equal to one-half of his benefit less any adjustment for YOU taking the benefit before your full retirement age. But whatever benefit you take under your 'spousal entitlement' doesn't reduce the Social Security benefit he'll receive.
An additional condition for receiving this spousal entitlement benefit while your ex is still alive is that you're not remarried when you apply.
-Seeking Survivor's benefits of an ex spouse:
If your ex spouse - after divorce - has died, you can seek your survivor's (i.e. surviving spouse's entitlement benefit) benefits. Of course you had to have been married to him at one time for at least 10 years.
But additionally, you cannot have remarried before you turn 60 to maintain your claim for those survivor's benefits. If you did marry before turning 60, you can still maintain a claim for survivor's benefits - but only if you second marriage ended.
If you remarry after turning 60 and your remarriage will not affect your claim for survivor benefits of your ex spouse.
-Summary if your ex-spouse is living:
*You can receive Social Security benefits based on the Social Security earnings record of your divorced spouse if:
*You were married to that former spouse for at least 10 years
*You are at least 62 years old
*You are currently unmarried, and
*You are not entitled to a higher SS benefit income base on your own SS earnings record
-Summary if your ex-spouse is deceased:
*You can receive benefits as a surviving divorced spouse on the Social Security record of a deceased former spouse who is fully insured if:
*You are at least age 60 (50 and disabled)
*You were married to the former spouse for at least 10 years;
*You are not entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own record; and
*You are unmarried, unless you remarried after age 60 or after age 50 but at the time of re-marriage you were entitled to Social Security disability benefits.
The benefits you receive won't include any delayed retirement credits that your ex-spouse may receive. The amount of benefits you get will have no effect on the amount of benefits either your ex-spouse or his current spouse will receive. The benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse will not affect the benefit amount paid to other family members who receive benefits on the same record.