Married for More Than Ten Years? You Can Collect Social Security Benefits From Your Ex-Spouse!

TenIf you were married to your ex-spouse for ten or more years, then you are eligible for very important Social Security benefits that could drastically increase how much Social Security you receive each month. Who doesn’t want a bigger Social Security check each month?

No one, that’s right! So keep reading.

Even if you are divorced, you can claim something called derivative benefits based on the earnings history of your ex-husband. Derivative benefits are equal to one half of your ex-husband’s Social Security benefits. So, for example, let’s say that Don receives roughly $3,000 per month in Social Security benefits. His ex-wife, Samantha who was married to Don for 18 years before they divorced in 2010, is eligible to receive $1,500 per month in Social Security benefits ($3,000 / 2 = $1,500) if she waits until full retirement age of 66+ to collect. If she collects between ages 62 and 66, there will be a reduction for taking benefits early.

The amount an individual receives from Social Security is based on their average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years where they earned the most income. In many cases, especially with older generations, a husband’s income will be greater than that of his ex-wife, and he therefore is entitled to a higher amount of Social Security.

After Samantha married Don, she quickly became pregnant. Over the years, she gave birth to three children. Samantha and Don decided that it made more financial sense for Don to work while Samantha stayed home to raise the children. During their prime working years, Don continued to climb the corporate ladder while Samantha earned no income. After her youngest child left for college, Samantha rejoined the workforce as an administrative assistant, but by the time she was planning to retire, her Social Security benefits were only $900 per month. Clearly, $1,500 in derivative benefits is a much better deal for Samantha than the $900 per month she would receive for her own benefits.

Of course, Samantha or any woman could choose to stick with her own full benefits. If, for instance, Samantha hadn’t chosen to stay at home with the children and instead opened her own PR agency and now could receive Social Security benefits of $3,000 a month, there’s no reason for her to take $1,500 a month in derivative benefits.

Your Derivative Benefits Don’t Affect Your Ex-Spouse’s Benefits

Samantha and Don’s divorce was amicable, and Samantha doesn’t want to “take” money away from her ex-husband through derivative benefits. She doesn’t have to worry. Whether or not she takes derivative benefits, Don will still earn his full amount of Social Security. If he remarries, his new wife will also be fully entitled to her derivative benefits regardless of what choice Samantha makes.

If you were married for over ten years, then when it is retirement time, you can ask the Social Security Administration to compute what amount of derivative benefits you are entitled to, so you can collect the maximum to which you are entitled.  You can also visit this great divorce resource from the Social Security Administration or read more in our excellent archive of divorce articles for women.


  1. can a spouse collect social security benefits if her husband passes away?

    • Yes, a spouse is eligible to receive widow’s benefits when she reaches retirement age.

      • 1) If I were to receive widow’s benefits in my retirement on my ex-husband’s record but he died prior to my collecting benefits I interpret the SS website to read that my benefit would be 100% of the benefit he received instead of 50%…again, only if he is deceased. Did I interpret that correctly?

        • If you are a surviving divorced spouse, then you receive a benefit based on 100% of his earnings record. And yes, he must be dead for you to be a surviving divorced spouse. If he’s still alive, you are simply a divorced spouse and the applicable percentage is 50%.

        • Max Walker says:

          I’m 63 year old. My ex-spouse was 77. I’m a divorce spouse who was married for over 12 years before I divorce my spouse twenty years ago. Because of my illnesses for the last two years I have been on SSi. I just was told my ex-spouse has passed away either in March or April of this year. My two questions are, {1} Will I receive 100% of my ex-spouse’s social security that he has been receiving? {2} When do I have to contact Social Security?

          • If you are not currently married, you can receive the higher of your SSI, your social security retirement benefits, or the social security retirement benefits that are based on your deceased divorced spouse’s earnings history. If I were you, I’d contact social security as soon as I could to find out what I’ll receive.

      • I’ve been married for 10 years haven’t seen my husband in 3 years am I eligible for his benefits

      • Sharon Allison-Dunklee says:

        Can I still receive this if I remarried?



      • If you were married to him for 10 years or longer, you can get divorced spouse benefits or your own benefits when you become retirement age, whichever is higher. In your example you would receive your $1000 per month since it is higher than divorced spouse benefits which are the equivalent of half of what he is eligible to receive.

  2. I was married to my first husband for 23 years and then we divorced. I remarried but now my second husband is divorcing me after 11 years of marriage. My first husband is now deceased but he never remarried after we divorced. What, if anything would I be eligible for? I am 57 years old and work full time.

  3. Tim Turney says:

    Question 1) when I decide to take early social security at age 62, will my benefits in any way be reduced because my wife continues working? Question 2) my wife and I entered our 2nd marriage in our late 50’s. She was married for 31 years in her first marriage. Do i understand correctly that she is in no way eligible for spousal SS benefits because when we were married, she was under 60 years of age? Thank you.

    • Your social security benefits are reduced only if you continue working. Her working has nothing to do with your benefits. When she retires, she will be entitled to her own benefits or spousal benefits based on your earnings record, and not based on her former spouse’s record.

  4. I recently went on SS at age 66 after collecting SS disability for 12 years and my check is pitiful. Will it increase when my 62 year old husband retires?

  5. First and second marriage were both to the same person. Do I add up the total of years we were married?

  6. kathleen dixon says:

    I was married for 25 years and divorced. He got remarried and I got remarried. At retirement time can I claim derivative benefits if hi earnings was greater than mine?

  7. I was married for 13 years. My ex retired from his US Postal service job. I raised our three children solo and did not receive any of his retirement benefits in our divorce decree. I’m not sure if he collects social security benefits or a civil service pension or both. Do I qualify for social security spousal benefits? If he collects a civil service pension, would the SS benefits be a reduced amount? How can I find out if he collects SS and if I qualify to draw on his benefits? I’m confused…

    • When you reach retirement age and are ready to begin collecting benefits, be sure to let social security know of your prior marriage, and they will pay you the greatest amount to which you are entitled, your own benefits or your divorced spouse benefits.

      • Thank you for your reply – I VERY much appreciate it! Will there be any SS benefits for my ex if he paid into a civil service pension rather than social security?

        • If he never paid into the social security system, then he won’t be eligible for social security benefits.

          • So then I also will not be eligible for Social Security through his employment?

          • You can only derive payments from his social security earnings record if he had social security earnings, which it appears he didn’t.

          • What if ex worked for 10 years in private sec and paid in to ssi before taking USPS job that they eventually retired from… Having been previously married 10+ years when he was paying into ssi(before his post office career), am I entitled, as his ex, to a portion of any ssi he receives at retirement or death? Will it be added to the ssdi I currently receive?

          • When you both are of retirement age 62 or older, you can collect your own benefits or divorced spouse benefits, whichever is higher. It is likely that your SSDI exceeds what you would be entitled to collect in retirement benefits, but you can ask Social Security to be sure.

  8. I was married 13 years and thinking of going on ssid or ssi i am divorced my ex husband did not work during those years you are only entitled to spouses benefits during marriage not after its confusing

    • SSDI and SSI are disability income, determined on your needs and your earnings while working. Social Security retirement is a retirement benefit that is payable when you are of retirement age, and is determined based on your own earnings while working or those earnings of your spouse or your divorced spouse, if you were married for 10 years or longer. If you receive SSDI now, that will convert over to social security retirement when you reach full retirement age.

      • I was born with Spina Bifida and because of health issues my years of working were very limited. I have received disability income and SSI for the last 5 years. I was married for 10 years and then divorced in 1992. My ex husband is now 69 years old and I just turned 66. He remarried and is still married. I remarried but divorced from that marriage in 2008 after only being married for 4 years. My question is can I qualify to receive half of my ex spouse’s Social Security benefits that I was married to for 10 years now that I reached 66?

        • It is my understanding that you can collect Social Security disability benefits or your own retirement benefits or divorced spouse benefits, whichever is greater. Ask Social Security how they are computing what they pay to you.

          • Do I call Social Security first to see which is higher in my case? I read online I will need a copy of my Marriage Certificate and Divorce papers when scheduling an appointment with Social Security to see about divorced spouse benefits. My question is where do I call to get these items when I was married in West Virginia and divorced in Virginia?

    • So if my spouse did not work while we were married i am not entitled to his earnings if he is working now i can only get my earnings

      • Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP says:

        You are entitled to social security retirement benefits based on your entire earnings history or divorced spouse benefits based on your husband’s entire earnings history.

  9. I was married to my first husband for 25 years. I remarried but after 5 years we are divorcing. My first husband passed away 2 years ago. He was collecting Ssdi when he passed. I will be 61 soon. Who would I collect from?

    • Once you are divorced, you can collect your own benefit or surviving divorced spouse benefits based on Husband #1.

    • Thankyou Ginita for your response. To follow up, am I better to collect at 62 or 66 from my deceased ex husband? Is there much of a difference? I remarried at 55, but as I stated earlier I will be divorcing after 5 years. Thankyou again for the information.

  10. I was married 11 years then got an amical divorce. If my x dies how much of his S/S am I entitled to?

    • As surviving divorced spouse, you are entitled to 50% of the benefit he would have been entitled to if you wait until you are 66+ (less if you take benefits early), as long as those benefits exceed the benefits based on your own record. If your own benefits are greater you would get those.

  11. As a divorced woman of a 12 yr marriage I was a stay at home mom and collected alimony for the past 20 yrs or so.. which I no longer collect. I work part time now but do not have any pension. Am I then entitled to 100 % of my ex spouses social security amount instead of 50 % of the amount?

  12. Avis Anonyuo says:

    Married for over 10 years can my x receive my social security if we are both remarried

  13. I am 54 and disabled I get SSI right now,can I get my ex husbands social security instead? We were married in August of 1990 and Divorced in April of 2002.

  14. I was married for 17 yrs been divorce I will be 63 in January never remarried can I take my xspouse SS he is 71 yrs old I was born January 19 th 1955 I’ve been divorce since 1992

  15. If you work for LA County and have a pension which have the WEP and GOP and you don’t have enough credits for social security benefits and you were married for at least 10 years are you entitled to you x-husbands social security benefits.

    • You are receiving a government pension, so 2/3 of your pension payments reduce what you are entitled to in divorced spouse social security benefits. That is called the Government Pension Offset (GPO).

  16. Madeline Osborn says:

    I was married for 11 years from 1969 to 1981. We divorced and I remarried and have been married to my current husband for 36 years. I just applied for SS benefits for myself. Am I also entitled to SS benefits from my first husband?

    • Right now it sounds as though you are entitled only to your own benefits. When your husband retires, you can receive spousal benefits if those exceed your own benefits. Since you have remarried, you are not eligible for benefits based on your first husband’s earnings history.

  17. I was married for 20 years to my first husband. I got remarried and have been married for 18 years to my 2nd husband, my first husband made more money than my 2nd. My first husband died never remarried so can I get his social security

    • You are not eligible to receive surviving divorced spouse benefits based on your deceased first husband’s earnings history since you are currently married to another person. When you are of retirement age, you are entitled to collect spousal benefits based on his earnings record.

  18. Rhonda dunn says:

    I am disabled now .so is my d ex husband we were married for 13 years they say to draw off his social security I have to be this true

    • Since you are disabled you may be able to get reduced benefits earlier. But if you are getting disability benefits, and they are higher that what you’d get in retirement benefits, you’ll probably want to stick with the disability benefits until you are of full retirement age. Talk to the Social Security Administration people to see what’s the best thing for you to do.

  19. I am a retired FERS employee age 60 and have been married 20 years to my spouse who makes twice my working income. Question is – can I draw SS off my spouse when I reach age 62? My husband will collect the highest SS amount allowed – due to his income. I have to collect SS either way at age 62. Please advise. I worked 38 years in 2 jobs and paid into SS that entire time.

    • Yes, once he retires and begins receiving social security benefits. Until then, you can collect based on your own social security history. If you are receiving a pension based on employment where you did not pay into the social security system, then 2/3 of your pension will offset the social security you receive based on your spouse’s earnings history. But if your employment was covered by social security, then that Government Pension Offset rule doesn’t apply to you.

  20. Brenda Slanga says:

    I was married to my first husband over 10 years.. We both remarried.. My 2nd husband died and have been collecting Widows benefits.. I am going to be 64 in October.. Am I able to choose which Social to take..
    My first husband’s? as he made a lot more money ? Am I entitled to anything that my 1st husband made?

    • You are entitled to receive the highest of divorced spouse benefits based on the earnings history of Husband #1, widow benefits based on Husband #2, or your own benefits. Since you are already receiving benefits, I imagine that Social Security has calculated widow’s benefits of 100% of what your deceased husband would have received is higher than divorced spouse benefits, which are just 50% of what he would be entitled to. You can contact them to see.

  21. Married 2 years to a physical abuser and the police helped me and my child escape for our lives…I can’t remember his social security number. Can I get any benefits? He was a Contractor Worker?

  22. I havnt been able to work since 2003..due to work injury..and now all kinds of medical issues..i was married 13 yrs to one and only 58…my ex spouse got his ssdi over 2 yrs ago at 46..i fild for disabilty in 2003…went to apeals and hearings…have a hearing coming up soon..can i get ssdi on his ssdi..and or use his credits due to he made more money than me

  23. My 2nd husband and I have been married 17 yrs. his ex wife remarried but divorced within 7 yrs. if my husband passed away will I get his social security beings mine is soo small or can his first wife claim any of it even tho she remarried and divorced under 10 yrs?

    • If your husband dies, you will be able to get social security retirement widow benefits. Don’t concern yourself with whether his former wife will get anything — it doesn’t affect what you will get.

  24. I was married to my 1st husband for 14 years when he died. I remarried and my 2nd husband just passed after 17 years. Would I be able to collect my 1st husbands social security if it was the larger amount?

  25. I’m turning 62 in September. I was married to my 2nd husband for 11 1/2 years, we were divorced and he passed away in 2004. I’m still working a full time job, which I plan on doing for a while yet. Am I eligible to collect his SS when I turn 62 even though I am still working? I never remarried. Thank you.

  26. I am divorced was married for 13 years . I became disabled 10 years ago from a pit bull attack tore both arms off I draw disability but not much can I get the devrivative benefit from my x social security and at what age I am 63 now

  27. If I was married for just over 6 years, and my spouse died, am I able to collect any portion of his social security if I do not remarry?

  28. I was married for 16 years got divorced. He was union electrician SS say they have nothing on him. He says he gets SS but wont give the SS Number what can I do. I have marriage and divorce Papers. HELP

  29. I was married 18 years – I never remarried, but he did. Can I collect on his SS at age 64.

  30. I was married for 23 years and I divorced him. . He remarried again but not me. He is two years younger than me . I am 61 he is 59. He’s been younger than me , does it affect when I can collect my SS benefits. If he dies can I collect widows benefits since he remarried?

    • You cannot collect social security benefit until you are both 62 or older. You cannot collect widow benefits since he is still alive and you are not married to him. When he dies, you can collect surviving divorced spouse benefits even though he is married.

  31. Tina Marbley says:

    my husband has been deceased for 10 years we were still married would I be able to collect his SSI after 10 years of being deceased

    • SSI is an income supplement to enable low income people to live. You cannot collect his. When you reach age 60 or older, you can collect reduced Social Security retirement widow’s benefits based on his earnings history, if that provides a greater benefit than your own benefit. To receive full benefits you must wait until full retirement age 66.

  32. I was married for a bit over ten years. My husband and I were divorced at that time. He has since passed away. I never remarried nor did he. Will I be eligible for widows benefits at age 60 even if im still working>

  33. I am 55 and on permanent disability benefits they are very low about $600 a month I was married from 1984 – 2000 would I be eligible for any income from ex husband benefits? I have not remarried

  34. Teresa m young says:

    I was married to my first husband over 10 years we divorced I got married again was married over 10 years to the second one we are divorced now they both are drawing their disability retirement I am age 60 drawing SSI disability cannot work I’m totally disabled would I be title to draw off my first husband or do you go by which is greater thank you so much

  35. I was married 23 years. I have been divorced 12 years. I did not work during my marriage, mainly because I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis in 1990. I recently was awarded SSD, but my amount is only $182 a month. My ex spouse’s award will be $3000. He is 3 years younger than me and I will be 59 next month. Can I get spousal benefits now because I am disabled? I was disabled through most of my marriage, but did not understand I could file for disability. My husband made a very good income, so I never had to worry. Now, I live in poverty and I am barely surviving. Thank you! ?

  36. Hi and thank you all so much,
    I was married 18 years. We made the choice to have me take my Social Security benefit at age 62, early. I took a pretty big hit. He encouraged this choice saying he would delay till 70.5 and receive a higher benefit for ‘us’.
    Now there is no us and I am left with a loss. Can I take the difference his retirement at 70 or now?
    He was born in 1951 and is 66 now and I am 65.
    I was also hoping I could suspend my benefits now? Due to the divorce?
    I have been on the net for 3 hours researching all this. I can not find the answer on the Social Security website.
    thanks so much again.
    Alone in Seattle

  37. Nancy Rogers says:

    I am 53 years old and disabled. I am divorced from my husband of 20 years. I was a stay at home housewife so I don’t have enough work credits to claim disability on my own. Can I claim disability off my ex-husband’s work credits? How does that work?

  38. Judy I Hebert says:

    Im 59 and on ssdi my ex husband of 17yrs is 66 and on ss am i able to collect from his benefits now

  39. Sheila Williams says:

    I’ve been married for 33yrs to my husband and he cheated on me with a young girl had a son he’s now 7yrs old and I tried to make our marriage work for 7yrs and he travel back and forth from new York to Myrtle Beach SC maybe 6 times out of the year and never moved here at all so my question is can I collect SS benefits from him now or if he passed away or if we divorce will I still be able to get his SS benefits

    • You are eligible for spousal benefits when you are both of retirement age and he begins collecting benefits. If you divorce, you are eligible for divorced spouse benefits once you are both of retirement age. If he dies, you are eligible for widow benefits (if still married when he dies) or surviving divorced spouse benefits (if divorced when he dies) once you are age 60 or older.

  40. I collect ssd since 2008 I am now 53 divorced from husband 10 years we had 3 children all grown he passed away 2 yrs ago and was also on ssd am I able to receive anything

  41. I was married to my ex husband for 11 years and he is collecting disability benefits he is 57 and I am 55. My question is am I entitled when I reach retirement age will I be able to draw from his retirement? I have not remarried .

    • If you were awarded a portion of his retirement in your divorce, be sure that you have put a Qualified Domestic Relations Order in place so you can receive your share when he retires (or the earliest date at which he could retire). If the divorce agreement did not address the retirement, then see an attorney about opening up your case to divide the pension.

  42. Cindy Henry says:

    I was married for 12 yrs and now divorced. My x is 18 months younger. Can i sign for my SS# at 62 then switch to his when he turns 62. I guess just need to know the best way to do it.

  43. Cindy Henry says:

    My x husband is younger by 18 months can I draw of of mine and then his.?

    • When you apply for social security benefits, you will get paid the greatest benefit to which you are entitled. It may indeed work out just the way that you outline, depending on how old you are when you begin to collect.

  44. Married 11 years before getting divorced. Remarried at 45 and been married to husband #2 for 29 years. Currently receive SS as does husband #2. Husband #1, died 6 years ago. Entitled to anything from husband #1 while married to husband #2? If divorce husband #2 what are options?

  45. Since you are married to #2, you can’t benefits based on #1. If you and #2 divorce, then you can collect your own benefits, surviving divorced spouse benefits on #1, or divorced spouse benefits based on #2, whichever is greater.

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