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Can you collect Social Security based on your ex’s earnings?

As you probably know, the amount of retirement you receive from the Social Security Administration is based on your earnings record, or the amount you paid in to Social Security over the course of your career.

The SSA also offers a spousal benefit, which allows spouses who never worked or who earned less than their significant others to collect retirement benefits based on the higher-earning spouse’s record. This benefit also applies to divorced spouses who meet certain requirements.

That means if you have gone through divorce and your ex-spouse earned more money than you did throughout your careers, you may want to collect Social Security retirement benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earning record instead of your own.

Here are the requirements that must be met to qualify for retirement benefits based on an ex-spouse’s earning record:

  • Your marriage had to have lasted for at least 10 years.
  • Your ex-spouse has to be eligible for retirement or disability benefits (but he or she does not need to be collecting benefits).
  • You must be at least 62 years old.
  • You must be unmarried.
  • You cannot qualify for a larger benefit using your own work history.

Note: If you collect retirement based on your ex-spouse’s earning record, it does not affect your ex’s benefit.  

Because this can result in a significantly higher retirement benefit for the lesser-earning spouse, some couples decide to put off a divorce until reaching the 10-year mark with their marriage. However, a divorce can be prepared so that it is ready to go as soon as the 10-year mark is met.

As you can see, divorce affects many aspects of your life that you probably haven’t considered, which is why it’s so important to work with an experienced family law attorney who can make sure all of your bases are covered. 

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