If you were applying for spousal benefits as a current spouse, your spouse would have to be drawing retirement benefits for you to be eligible. But as an ex-spouse your former spouse only has to be sixty-two. He or she doesn’t have to be drawing retirement benefits. In fact, your ex-spouse can still be working. You can begin taking reduced spousal benefits at sixty-two as long as you were married to your ex-spouse for ten years or more. If your ex-spouse isn’t taking benefits, you have to have been divorced for at least two years for you to draw spousal benefits on your ex-spouse’s work record. If your retirement benefits exceed 50 percent of the full retirement benefits of your ex-spouse, you would not be eligible for spousal benefits as an ex-spouse. You would receive your retirement benefits instead.
Don’t forget that earnings limits apply when you take reduced spousal benefits before you reach full retirement age. You could only earn $16,920 in 2017 before the Social Security Administration would begin to withhold benefits if you exceeded the limit. We’ll discuss the earnings limit in more detail later.
Taking your benefits early may not be the right decision, depending on your employment situation. If you are earning good money and don’t mind working, it makes better sense to stay in the workforce and grow your retirement benefits by waiting until full retirement age to begin receiving your monthly checks, or by waiting until age seventy to maximize your retirement benefits through the accumulation of delayed retirement credits.