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When do you qualify for a former spouse’s Social Security?

When you have a husband or wife, your retirement picture may look quite a bit different than it does when you divorce. You may worry about having enough retirement funds to get by on if you find yourself single in this stage of life, but you may have the option of collecting Social Security retirement benefits based on the earnings record of your ex-spouse.

CNBC reports that about 30% of people have no idea that they may be able to collect these benefits using a former spouse’s earnings history after a marriage ends. However, whether you may do so depends on certain variables.

What decides if you are eligible

The main factor that determines if you may collect Social Security retirement benefits using your ex-spouse’s work history is the duration of your marriage. As long as your ex put enough time into a role where he or she paid into Social Security, you may take advantage of this benefit as long as your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.

What determines if it makes sense

If you also worked in a Social Security-covered position during your professional career, you may qualify for Social Security retirement benefits on your own accord. However, how much you get depends on how long you worked in a Social Security-covered role. If you use your ex’s earnings record to collect these benefits, the most you might get is half of what he or she does. Thus, it pays to do the math and see if you would get more using your own earnings record or that of your former partner.

It is worth noting that your decision to collect these benefits using your former husband or wife’s work history does not affect the amount your ex gets in monthly benefit checks.