Older married couples in California often depend entirely or partially on Social Security benefits to cover living expenses. Even when one spouse has not worked or qualifies for lower monthly payouts, they may still be able to collect up to half of their spouse's full benefits. The ability to do this doesn't necessarily end after a divorce.
If a divorced individual aged 62 or older was legally wed for a decade or more and is still single, they can still collect Social Security benefits on their ex's record, even if they have since remarried. The ex-spouse must also be eligible for benefits, and their payouts must be higher than the other former spouse's benefit. Payments received could be lower if a former spouse opts to collect from their ex's record before their full retirement age. Also, if a former spouse has been divorced for at least two years, they may still be able to collect from an eligible ex's record even if the ex hasn't yet applied for SS benefits.
Remarriage post-divorce usually means a former spouse can no longer collect from their ex's record. However, they may still be able to do collect from their new spouse's record if that individual is also eligible for Social Security payouts. It may also be possible to collect from the ex-spouse with the highest benefit if there are multiple marriages and divorces as long as those marriages lasted a decade or more and other eligibility requirements are met.
Because there are many guidelines specific to Social Security benefits, a family law attorney may recommend that a divorcing spouse looking to continue to collect from their ex's record have their finances reviewed. This information may also be used to negotiate a fair divorce settlement and determine whether spousal support is necessary to overcome financial discrepancies.