Some California residents who have gone through a divorce might be unaware that they may be able to claim Social Security benefits based on the work record of their ex-spouse. They must have been married for at least 10 years. They must not be remarried, and the benefits they would receive from their spouse’s work record must exceed what they would get from their own record. A person can claim up to 50 percent of the benefit their spouse would receive in these circumstances. The ex-spouse’s own benefits will not be reduced.

Since Social Security benefits are calculated based on a person’s work record, some people may not reach the 10 years minimum of work required to begin drawing benefits. Others may have made considerably less income than their former spouse.

People can begin drawing Social Security benefits as early as at age 62, but those benefits will be permanently reduced. Furthermore, if the other spouse has not yet begun drawing benefits, the claimant must have been divorced for at least two years.

This ability to claim on an ex-spouse’s earnings record can be important to financial security in retirement particularly for people who divorce later in life Even if a person has not worked outside the home, unless there is a prenuptial agreement, other assets acquired during the marriage, such as a home and a retirement account, are considered marital property to be split in the divorce. A couple may decide to sell the home and divide the proceeds. For retirement accounts, there may be complexities around tax obligations to consider. They may want to get advice from their respective attorneys on these and other matters.