Any money, investments or other assets saved for retirement during a marriage have typically been stashed away for future use by both parties. Retirement funds and other investments are usually addressed during a couple’s division of property, but there is an often overlooked source of income during the retirement years that is not necessarily considered during a divorce. Even if an Illinois couple split many years ago, one party may still be able to file for Social Security benefits based upon his or her ex-spouse’s work history.

There are several important considerations to take into account before determining whether an individual qualifies for benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record. For instance, both the ex-spouse and the claimant must be at least 62 years of age. However, it is important to note that, as 62 is not full retirement age, 62-year-old claimants will not receive full benefits. 

Aside from age, the length of the marriage is also important. If a marriage lasted less than 10 years, a party cannot claim benefits based on his or her ex-spouse’s work record. The person who files must also be single at the time, regardless of the number of times he or she has married. In instances in which both marriages lasted at least 10 years, everyone is of the correct age and the person who intends to file is currently single, he or she may choose to file for benefits based on either ex-spouse’s work history, but he or she may only file for one or the other — not for both.

Social Security benefits are part of many couple’s retirement plans. When a couple in Illinois goes through a divorce, the spouses usually split the retirement funds they have in savings accounts during the division of marital property, but this does not remove anyone’s right to file for benefits using a former spouse’s work history. As even a small increase in the amount of benefits received can greatly impact a person’s quality of life during retirement, it is wise to consider claiming an ex-spouse’s benefits as part of a retirement plan.

Source:, “Social Security and divorce“, May 6, 2015