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Getting Social Security using an ex-spouse’s work record

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2023 | Division of Assets and Debts |

Many people living in California enter into marriage and wind up sacrificing their careers in the process. Maybe they do so to free up more time for raising children, or perhaps they do so to be able to spend more time at home catering to their partners. Regardless of your reasoning for sacrificing your own career after marriage, your doing so may have a financial impact on your retirement plans if that marriage ends in a divorce.

According to CNBC, whether you and anyone else qualify for Social Security retirement benefits upon reaching the appropriate age depends on how long you spent working in a role where you paid into the Social Security system. You must have a certain amount of work credits to qualify for these payments. However, if you lack sufficient work credits, you may, in some cases, qualify for these benefits using your former spouse’s work record.

What determines eligibility

If your spouse worked long enough in a Social Security-covered position to be eligible for retirement benefits, then the main determining factor in whether you may collect them based on his or her past earnings is the length of your union. If your marriage lasted 10 years or more, you become eligible for this spousal benefit.

What makes the most financial sense

Say you also qualify for Social Security using your own earnings history. In this situation, it pays to figure out how much you might get using your own work record and compare it to how much you would get using your ex’s. You have entitlement to, at most, half of the amount your ex gets, should you choose to take advantage of the spousal benefit.

If you do decide to collect the spousal benefit, this does not lessen the amount your former spouse gets.