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Social security benefits and derivative benefits upon divorce are explained by San Diego attorney, CFLS, Michele sacks Lowenstein. Derivative benefits apply to couples after they have been married for a minimum of ten years. Federal law provides that the lower-earning spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits based upon his or her previous, higher-earning, spouse's earnings. These derivative benefits do not affect the higher-earning spouse's social security benefits. For more helpful links and information on Social Security Benefits visit our Information Hub for Clients/Links to Information You Should Have.