There is a minimum amount of time you have to be married to claim someone else's Social Security benefits.
"You have to be married at least 10 years," says Michael Webb, Social Security spokesman for the Seattle region. "Nine years and 11 months doesn't cut it. It's got to be the full 10 years."
If you meet the 10-year requirement, you can get up to 50 percent of the amount of Social Security benefits your ex receives. It does not reduce his benefits. When you turn 65, you will also get Medicare.
For most people, the marriage begins the day of the ceremony and ends when the divorce is finalized. If you live in a state that recognizes common-law marriages, however, you may be "considered married" as long as you were living together and you meet other requirements for that state. (If most people thought you were married, you probably qualify.) Common-law marriages are recognized in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington, D.C., although several states are starting to phase common-law marriage rules out.
You'll have to show the Social Security Administration you had a common-law marriage by meeting the specific requirements in the state where the marriage began.