January 23, 2022

Social Security: What Do You Need to Apply for a Spouse or Divorce Benefit?

Serious senior accountant sitting in the living room and looking at the laptop stock photo

Vadym Pastukh / iStock.com

Applying for and receiving partnership benefits is a great way to increase your monthly Social Security benefits — sometimes by as much as $800. Even if you’ve never worked, you could qualify for benefits under Social Security if you’re at least 62 years old and your spouse /ex-spouse has already applied for pension benefits.

To see: Social Security 2022: How COLA Will Increase Benefits for the Average Senior Couple
Find: Social Security: How to Increase Your Benefit by $800

You can apply online if you are within 3 months of your 62nd birthday or older or by calling the National Toll Free Service at 1-800-772-1213. You can also visit your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but calling ahead and requesting one can reduce the wait time for an application.

Documents required to submit an application include:

  • Birth certificate or other birth certificate;
  • Proof of US citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States;
  • US military discharge papers if you had military service before 1968;
  • W-2 forms and/or self-employed tax returns from last year.
  • Final divorce decree, if applicable as a divorced spouse; and
  • Marriage certificate.

It is important to note that the Social Security Administration will accept photocopies of W-2 forms, self-employment tax returns, or medical documents, but will only accept original copies of most other documents such as your birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc. Original documents will always be returned to you .

Even if you don’t have all of the documents listed above, the SSA states that you should still apply as they can help you get the documents you’re missing.

You will also be asked to provide personal information such as the number of children you have and their ages, your military status, your citizenship and work history, among others.

To see: 20 Best Places to Live With Just a Social Security Check
Find: 9 Things Most Retirees Don’t Know About Social Security

Even if you are divorced, you can still apply for and receive a partner allowance. If you are divorced, your marriage must have lasted one or more years before you are eligible for state benefits. You may not personally remarry either, because then you would have to apply for benefits from your new spouse. You are eligible for a benefit from your ex-spouse if the benefit to which you are entitled for your own work is lower than the benefit you would receive from your ex-spouse.

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About the author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience in concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo.

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