Dear Liz: Many years ago I read about spousal benefits based on an ex-spouse’s Social Security earnings record. Is there a minimum length of time of the marriage to qualify? How do I apply for this benefit? I am within nine months of retirement.
Answer: You can qualify for Social Security spousal benefits based on an ex’s work record as long as:
•The marriage lasted 10 years or more.
•You are 62 or older and unmarried.
•Your ex-spouse is eligible to begin receiving his or her own Social Security benefit (even if he or she hasn’t applied yet).
•Your own benefit is less than the spousal benefit you would get based on his or her work record.
Any benefits you receive based on his or her record won’t affect what your ex receives, or what his or her current or other former spouses receive.
As with regular spousal benefits, the amount you get will be permanently discounted if you apply before you’ve reached your own full retirement age (which is currently 66 and will climb to 67 in a few years).