Drawing from life course theory, this article examines gender differences in formal assistance among functionally dependent Dutch older persons within five distinct marital history groups – first-married, never-married, divorced (not remarried), widowed (not remarried) and the remarried. Hierarchical logistic regression analyses are performed for each of the marital history groups to test hypotheses regarding the interrelationships among gender and three sets of variables: 1) measures of age and functional health; 2) measures of socio-economic status; and 3) measures of the social network. The results indicate gendered patterns of formal help use among the first-married, never-married and widowed. Consistent with other studies, older first-married women are approximately three times more likely to receive formal help than are men, a difference that remains robust after statistically controlling for other factors, including frailty of spouse. However, we also find that never-married women are about one-third as likely to use formal help than are never-married men, which may be reflective of different preferences regarding formal service use. Among the widowed, we find that men with poorer functional health are more likely to receive formal help than are their female counterparts, suggesting contrasting patterns of help-seeking behaviour and social vulnerability. Additional differences are observed among the marital history groups in terms of the other independent variables, which are also interpreted from a life course perspective.