Many Washington residents working their way through divorces are unaware that the length of their marriage may make them eligible to collect Social Security retirement benefits using the earnings histories of their former spouses. Yet, this is an option for many people following divorce. Collecting these benefits using an ex’s work history may prove particularly helpful for those who stopped furthering their own careers for the sake of their spouses or children.
CNBC notes that about 30% of Americans do not recognize that they may qualify for these retirement benefits once their marriages end.
What determines who qualifies
The main variable that decides if someone is eligible to collect Social Security retirement benefits using the earnings record of an ex-spouse is whether the marriage lasted 10 years. If so, the spouse looking to collect benefits based on the earnings record of the other party may collect a “spousal benefit” if he or she did not marry someone else in the time since the divorce.
What determines how much retired individuals collect
At most, a spousal benefit amounts to half the amount the qualifying spouse earns in each check. How much anyone gets in Social Security retirement benefits depends on how long that individual worked in a position that paid into the national Social Security system. So, those who worked for at least a period in a Social Security-covered position may want to figure out how much they would get based on their own earnings record and see if it amounts to more than they would get as a spousal benefit.
Because this may be a significant benefit, some people navigating divorce intentionally wait until their marriages hit the 10-year mark to pull the plug on them.