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Ask Bob: Can You Collect Social Security on Your Ex-spouse?

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Are you entitled to a spousal benefit based on your ex-spouse's Social Security record?

The short answer is yes, according to David Cechanowicz, a senior financial planner with REDW Wealth LLC in Albuquerque, NM.

But you must meet certain criteria, including the number one rule: Your marriage to the ex-had to last for 10 years or longer before the date the divorce became final.

“If you were married for 9 years and 11 months and 28 days, it won't work” he said. “No (ex-spouse) benefits will be available."

What other criteria do you need to meet?·Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.·The benefit that you are entitled to receive based on your own work must be less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work.·Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older.·You have filed an application for divorced spouse benefits.·You are not remarried.

In some cases an individual can claim a retirement benefit as an ex-spouse once they reach full retirement age and then switch to their own benefit at age 70.

However, in an interview, Cechanowicz noted that “totally opposite” rules apply to ex-spouses who were born before Jan. 2, 1954 and those born on or after Jan. 2, 1954.

Switching between benefits is only available to those ex-spouses who were born prior to January 2, 1954. And, if you've had multiple marriages all of which ended in divorce, and you meet all the criteria, you'd be entitled to a spousal benefit based on the ex-spouse with the highest earnings record.

Cechanowicz also noted that ex-spouses are entitled survivors benefits based on their ex-spouse's earnings records as well, as long as they are not subject to the government pension offset that can eliminate survivor benefits.

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