Social Security retirement benefits are payable based on an individual’s prior earning’s history. A party in divorce may be entitled to collect social security benefits based on the earnings history of their spouse instead of their own. For this to be an option, your spouse must already be at least 62 years old and receiving their social security benefits. Additionally, you must have been married to your spouse for at least ten years and be at least 62 years old. There is an exception to the age requirement if your spouse is deceased in which case you can start collecting at 60 years old or 50 years old if you are disabled. You cannot be remarried at the time you are electing to receive a spouse or ex-spouse’s benefits however, remarriage is permissible if it occurs after age 60 or age 50 if disabled.
Finally, your social security benefits based on your earnings history must be less than your spouse’s benefits. You can only elect to receive one social security benefit and should opt for whichever is higher. By electing to receive benefits under a spouse’s earnings history you do not diminish the benefit your spouse is entitled to receive themselves. You spouse will continue to receive the full amount of his or her benefit. You are entitled to receive 50% of the benefit your spouse is receiving. If, however, your spouse pre-deceases you, you are then entitled to receive 100% of your spouse’s benefits. Further, any children under 18 at the time of your spouse’s death would be entitled to certain benefits as well.