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When are you eligible for a former spouse’s Social Security?

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2023 | Family Law

A growing number of Virginia residents are ending their marriages later in life, and if you are among them, you may be looking for ways to maximize your income during this fast-approaching stage of life. Studies show that many Americans do not realize they may be able to collect Social Security retirement benefits using the earnings history of an ex-husband or ex-wife, rather than their own earnings histories.

According to CNBC, whether collecting Social Security retirement benefits under an ex’s name is an option for you, specifically, depends on certain variables.

What makes you eligible to collect this “spousal benefit”

To qualify for retirement benefits from the U.S. Social Security Administration, you, your ex or anyone else has to put in enough time in a professional role that paid into the U.S. Social Security system. If your ex has enough of a work history to qualify for these benefits but you do not, you may collect them based on your former spouse’s earnings record as long as your marriage lasted at least 10 years.

When it makes sense to collect this “spousal benefit”

You may also qualify for Social Security retirement benefits as a result of your own work record. The SSA uses a specific formula that considers your average monthly earnings, among other criteria, to decide how much to give you in benefits. If you collect them using an ex’s work history, you may only collect half of the amount your ex does. Thus, it may serve you well to figure out how much you would collect in each scenario and then do whatever gives you the most money.

Even if you do collect these benefits using your former spouse’s professional history, it does not reduce the amount your ex-husband or ex-wife takes home each month.