Yes – maybe. Here are the specific requirements:
If you were married for ten years or longer, you will be eligible to collect derivative Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record when you reach retirement age, assuming you are not married to someone else at the time.
The derivative benefits are equal to one-half the amount your former spouse is eligible to collect, based on his entire earnings over his entire career, including the years after your marriage was dissolved.
You can’t double up: you’ll collect derivative benefits based on his earnings, or benefits based on your own earnings, but not both. You get whichever is higher. Don’t worry, you don’t have to make the computations. When you are ready to apply for benefits, just provide your ex-spouse’s social security number and proof that you were married for at least ten years, and they will compute what you are due. Your ex doesn’t have to approve – matter of fact, he won’t even be notified that you are collecting benefits based on his earnings.
There’s nothing that you need to put in your divorce decree to preserve your right to derivative benefits. The benefit is provided by federal law, which can’t be altered by provisions in your divorce agreement.
But wait! There’s more you need to know.
As a nationally recognized expert on money, Ginita Wall is is the author of eight personal-finance books, including It's More Than Money, It's Your Life! The New Money Club for Women. Ginita lectures frequently and has appeared in numerous financial publications, websites, and television shows. A San Diego CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CDS, and CFP® practitioner specializing in divorce, she's the co-founder of the Women's Institute for Financial Education (www.WIFE.org). She can be reached at (858) 792-0524. View her website online.