Can I Use My Ex-Spouse to Get Social Security?

Dear Dr. Don, Is it possible to draw Social Security retirement benefits from an ex-husband? If so, when is it possible to do so? What if you have been married twice before?

Thanks, -- Debbie Drawer

Dear Debbie, You can draw retirement benefits based on your ex-spouse's work record if you meet the Social Security Administration's eligibility guidelines for those benefits. First and foremost, the marriage must have lasted 10 years or more.

If you remarried after your divorce, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse's record unless the later marriage ended either by divorce, annulment or death. So you must be unmarried, and there are other conditions.

  • You must be 62 or older.
  • Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work must be less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work.

If your ex has not applied for retirement benefits yet, but he can qualify for them, you can receive benefits based on his record if you have been divorced for at least two years. The benefits you receive as a divorced spouse don't impact the amount of benefits your ex and his current spouse, if he remarried, can receive.

If you will receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, it will impact the Social Security benefit you can receive based on your ex-spouse's work record. You should also know that if you continue to work while receiving Social Security prior to your full retirement age, there are earning limitations that apply to your benefits.

If you're eligible for a former spouse's benefits, you can take that spousal benefit and delay receiving retirement benefits based on your own work record until a later date. If your retirement benefits are delayed, you may be eligible for a higher benefit at a later date based on the delayed retirement credits earned on your work record. You can earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70. When in doubt, talk to your local Social Security office about your benefit options.

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