Rights to longer spousal support

In some states, such as California, in a marriage of ten years or longer, the court retains the right to order that spousal support be paid to the lesser-earning spouse for as long as she needs it, if the other spouse has the ability to pay. Even when the right to spousal support based on years of marriage isn’t written in the law, like it is in California, in many jurisdictions, judges treat a 10-year marriage as a “long term” marriage and are therefore more likely to consider granting spousal support. If you are approaching the 10-year mark, your marriage is rocky, and you will need spousal support, it’s important to consult with an attorney to see if sticking in the marriage for 10 years has any advantages.

Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouses work record

Regardless of whether 10-years of marriage will get you spousal support, many people don’t know that even after divorce, if your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive Social Security benefits on your ex-spouse's record (even if he or she has remarried) if:

  • You are unmarried and you are age 62 or older;

  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and;

  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work.

Social Security benefits when your ex-spouse dies

If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower, provided your marriage lasted 10 years or more.

Social Security if you remarry after divorce

If you divorce but then remarry, your ex-spousal benefits will stop. You generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse's record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment). However, if you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, if you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivor benefits. Many divorced women collect their own Social Security while the ex is alive, but can apply for higher divorced widow’s rates when he dies.

Note: Any benefit taken, whether as an ex-spouse or a surviving ex-spouse, before your Social Security Full Retirement Age will be permanently reduced.
For more details on divorce and Social Security, see my article at