retirement social securityYour ex-spouse might be able to help you feather your nest in retirement. Even better, there's at least one former-spouse benefit that you won't need to go to court to get access to: payment based on your ex-spouse's Social Security earnings record.

Oh, sure, like everything else Social Security-related, you need to qualify for benefits as an ex-spouse. But once you qualify, the money is yours -- and your ex doesn't even need to know you applied.

How does that work?
According to the Social Security Administration, for you to collect on your ex-spouse's record:

  • You need to have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years.
  • You must be 62 years of age or older -- and not currently married.
  • Your ex-spouse must be eligible for Social Security retirement or disability.
  • The benefits you get from your ex-spouse's earnings record must be higher than what you'd get from your own earnings record.

Additionally, if you've hit your full retirement age (somewhere between 65 and 67, depending on when you were born), you can claim benefits based on your ex-spouse's record, and then claim your own later. That could be useful if putting off claiming your own Social Security benefits (say to age 70) gets you enough credits to boost the payment based on your own record to a higher amount than the payment on your ex-spouse's record.

The Fine Print

Of course, the way forward isn't entirely free of obstacles. For instance, if you're still working and are under your full retirement age, the money you earn will reduce the Social Security benefit by $1 for every $2 you earn (and $1 for every $3 in the year you reach full retirement age). Also, if you're expecting payments from a pension that's not covered by Social Security, those payments may reduce the amount you qualify to receive based on your spouse's record.

Additionally -- in case you were wondering -- nothing you claim based on your ex-spouse's record will affect his or her own claim on those benefits.

All told, having him or her work to help pay for your retirement may very well be one of the last -- and largest -- nice surprises you'll ever get from your ex. You do need to claim the benefits, but once you do, they're all yours -- no judge needed.

Don't have an ex to help fund your golden years? Read The Motley Fool's free report on boosting your Social Security payout as much as 25%. Motley Fool contributor Chuck Saletta welcomes your comments below.




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Sandar Clifford

Hello to my friends out there I am testifying about the good work of a man who helps me has been hell since the day my husband left me I am a woman with two children of my problem raised when the father of my children never help traveling he was living, but about two weeks since I got my eye on my husband tries to call me but did not take my call a few weeks he calls me tells me he has found love somewhere easy at first I need to be serous but one day after he arrived at the house to collect his things, that was the time I realize that things go wrong it will help, but the things that went wrong that day needed to talk to someone about it, so i went to his friend, but there was no help, so I let him month later I met online a man called PROPHET ROBSON on a sorcerer who never believe this, but I needed my man back, so the sorcerer gave me trouble at first did not trust him to i was doing to make love, but after three days my husband called me telling me that her return home but I still do not think until six days, the father of my children came to the house to ask me to give my love to him the work with told myself from that day I was happy with my family thanks to the care of PROPHET ROBSON
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December 07 2013 at 8:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sdrada

According to this article a person can collect 2 social security checks after retirement. One based on spouse's earnings (assuming all conditions are satisfied) starting at 62, and one based on his/her earnings when he/she retires based on his/her earnings. Two people I asked, said this is NOT true. Why would this author write such an erroneous piece? Isn't anyone fact checking?

June 29 2012 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pstranc7

I've contacted Social Security two different times
about collecting my EX's SS amount. (I'm 68 & he's 73, we were married for 37 years and I have not remarried). They told me NO. They said I have to wait for him to die before I can collect on his SS. Who did you talk to about this - I'd like to talk to that person.

March 13 2012 at 2:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Netter Bug

You must have been married for a minimum of ten years. Relax people, most of you bitching probably weren't married that long. :/

March 13 2012 at 12:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
niti2

I've always been under the impression that, as long as the ex is alive, the ex-wife is entitled to HALF of his ss income. If he is deceased she is entitled to the full amount.

March 12 2012 at 11:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeffdg613

Sorry, everyone, for the multiple posts....Stupid site said the post didn't go due to 'technical difficulties.' My mistake for believing it. Sorry.

March 12 2012 at 10:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeffdg613

Oh, great....yet another way that my ex gets to profit from our marriage. If somehow the system could be set up so the amount she could get back is determined by how much she put into our marriage, she'd have to write checks TO Social Security. Nice to see that yet another system is set up to glean profit for the ex from the efforts of their former spouse.

March 12 2012 at 10:13 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Martha

To al the cry babies on here: If the marriage was so bad, why did you stay in it for 10 years or more? Seems to me that anyone married to any of you deserves some kind of payment. I'm pretty sure a lot of your spouses won't be able to collect anything because if they were smart enough to get away from you, they're probably smark enough to make more than you. Men act as if they are such gifts to women. If it weren't for women most of you would still be living in caves.

March 12 2012 at 8:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Martha's comment
jeffdg613

Not everyone that ends up on the losing end of a divorce felt the marriage was bad and wanted out of it. But it's interesting that you show your compassionate side so quickly.

Oh, and you apparently weren't one of the "smark" ones, were you?

March 12 2012 at 10:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
skibuff52

There is no defense against the female mind

March 13 2012 at 4:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeffdg613

Oh, great....yet another way that my ex gets to profit from our marriage. If somehow the system could be set up so the amount she could get back is determined by how much she put into our marriage, she'd have to write checks TO Social Security. Nice to see that yet another system is set up to glean profit for the ex from the efforts of their former spouse.

March 12 2012 at 8:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeffdg613

Oh, great....yet another way that my ex gets to profit from our marriage. If somehow the system could be set up so the amount she could get back is determined by how much she put into our marriage, she'd have to write checks TO Social Security. Nice to see that yet another system is set up to profit the ex from the efforts of their former spouse.

March 12 2012 at 8:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply