Social Security exists to provide some level of financial support during retirement years for individuals as well as married couples. When one spouse earns less than another over the course of their marriage, that spouse can obtain Social Security benefits based on the earnings of the other even if that spouse never had employment. A homemaker in Ohio could qualify for up to half of the benefit that his or her spouse earned even after the marriage is over.
Conditions apply for ex-spousal benefits
Federal family law requires a marriage to last at least 10 years and the primary earner must be at least 62 years of age to draw Social Security benefits after a divorce. That includes Social Security disability benefits. The spouse wanting to obtain benefits must be at least 62 years of age to apply for benefits and cannot have remarried.
No limits on the number of ex-spouses drawing benefits
In some rare cases, more than one ex-spouse could qualify for Social Security benefits based on a former spouse’s earnings. If more than one marriage lasted at least 10 years and ended in divorce, then more than one ex-spouse could apply for and receive Social Security benefits. For example, former TV personality Johnny Carson had three ex-wives who obtained benefits based on his ample lifetime earnings.
Higher earnings nix ex-spousal benefits
If you earned more than your former spouse and tried to apply for Social Security benefits based on the ex’s earnings, you would not succeed. Anyone who earns more than a former spouse cannot use that spouse’s earnings to qualify for Social Security benefits. That benefit amount would be significantly lower than the primary earner’s full benefit, which goes against the intent of the Social Security law. Instead, the other spouse would be the one to possibly qualify for the spousal benefit.
You may have questions about how your divorce will affect your retirement. A divorce attorney may help you learn how the Social Security benefit might apply in your case.