For many couples looking forward to their golden years, the household budget may not have much wiggle room for retirement savings. You may need Social Security benefits to round out your household income after you retire. Both of you probably count on Social Security to make retirement possible.

In order to receive Social Security benefits as a retiree, you need to have made enough contributions to the program via paycheck withholdings throughout your working life. Those who leave the workforce to care for their family or who only work part time may not have accrued enough contributions to claim Social Security benefits of their own.

Is it possible to split Social Security benefits?

While you have accrued a certain amount of earned benefits, you don’t actually have a certain amount deposited in an account. You simply have the right to receive those benefits. If your situation meets certain criteria, the courts can split those benefits between the spouse who earned them and the dependent spouse.

Provided that a marriage lasts for at least 10 years, a dependent spouse can ask for a share of the Social Security benefits earned by their spouse. Other qualifying criteria include being over the age of 62 and remaining unmarried. If the dependent spouse has a smaller benefit they earned by working, they can potentially receive a combination of benefits from their own benefits and the benefits earned by their spouse.

The courts don’t split Social Security benefits the way that they do other retirement benefits. However, the amount each spouse can receive might influence other property division decisions. It’s wise to discuss this with your family law attorney.