Can someone qualify for Social Security retirement benefits based on the earnings of his or her ex-spouse?

By Carolyn Grimes
November 16, 2016

Yes, Social Security benefits are not divisible in divorce. They’re not a property asset, but what happens when you go to apply for Social Security at retirement age, they generally ask you to fill out an enormous form that asks you who you've been married to.

If you have been married to someone for 10 years or more and you would get a higher social security benefit claiming as that person’s spouse – you don't have to be married to them at the time you're applying – then you get a bump up in your social security benefits. You're not taking anything from your ex-spouse. This is a part of Social Security that's designed to protect non-working wives from way back when. It's essentially the wife benefit bump up, although men can get it, too. It's not gender designated, but that's what it's for. If you've been married to someone for 10 years or more and weren’t working during that time and the spouse was, they give you a bump up in your Social Security based on the credits of having been married to that person.

It doesn't take money from him, but it's not something you can claim in divorce. Social Security benefits are not divisible by state courts.


Carolyn Grimes is a family lawyer at the law firm of Wade Grimes Friedman Sutter & Leischner PLLC in Alexandria, Virginia. To learn more about Grimes and her firm, visit www.oldtownlawyers.com.

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November 16, 2016
Categories:  FAQs

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