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Ask the Expert: Can I collect half my ex-husband's Social Security benefit?

My soon-to-be ex-husband is 61 years old and I am 66. I haven't yet applied for Social Security, but I have very little work history and therefore would only have a small benefit check each month. Now that I'm getting divorced, I was told that I can get half of my husband's Social Security benefit even though he is still working. Is this something I can file for?

Yes, after you've been divorced for two years. If your marriage lasted at least 10 years, after your ex turns 62, you can apply for Social Security based on his work record even if he's still working. He doesn't need to have applied for Social Security; he just has to be eligible to do so. (By contrast, if you stayed married, you couldn't apply for a spousal benefit until after he had filed for Social Security.)

If you file your application after reaching your full retirement age (FRA), you'll qualify to receive an amount equal to 50% of his Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). His PIA is the amount he'll be entitled to collect at his own FRA. You'll also automatically be filing for your own small benefit. You can't receive both, so you'll get the larger of the two amounts.

If your ex predeceases you, you'll qualify for a survivor benefit equal to 100% of the Social Security check he was collecting (or was eligible to receive) at the time of his death.

Moreover, the benefits you collect based on his work record won't reduce the size of his own future Social Security checks, or the size of the Social Security benefits available to his subsequent spouse, should he remarry.

The bottom line

A person who is divorced can sometimes qualify to receive Social Security benefits based on his or her former spouse's work record.

More information

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Include your name, address and phone numbers. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own consultants for your specific needs.

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