For Mark Roberts’ Use: We’re all aware that marriage and divorce are not just matters of the heart; they’re matters of the checkbook as well. If you’re retired or soon to be retired, you might be wondering how your marriage or divorce impacts Social Security benefits. In complicated situations, it’s best to speak directly with a social security representative or advocate. However, most situations will be clarified by the rules below.

If you’re divorced, you can draw Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse’s work record under the following circumstances:


  • You are entitled to Social Security disability or retirement benefits based on general rules.
  • Your marriage lasted at least 10 years.
  • Your ex-spouse is at least 62 years old
  • The benefit you would receive based on your own work record is less than what you’d receive from your ex-spouse’s work record.


If you decide to remarry, you cannot draw benefits from your former spouse’s work record unless the second marriage ends by divorce, death, or annulment. You can draw benefits from your ex-spouse’s work record even if they choose to remarry.

In most cases, these special rules are of particular interest to women. In most marriages, the pattern is still for the man to focus on career while the woman’s earnings take a backseat to child rearing. Even women who return to the workforce after a period of time often earn less than their spouse, and therefore have fewer work credits with Social Security. At retirement, it would make sense to draw benefits from their husband’s work record. Of course, in some cases this situation is reversed, with the husband being the lower wage earner.

When planning for retirement, women (and lower-earning men) need to be especially vigilant about not only their own retirement savings, but also their eligibility to draw upon a spouse’s Social Security benefits in the future. Many who are considering divorce close to the ten-year mark would be smart to wait a bit longer in order to help ensure future Social Security benefits.