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Collecting spousal Social Security benefits after divorce

If, like an increasing number of baby boomers, you and your spouse are divorcing, you'll be relieved to know that you can still claim Social Security spousal benefits. In fact, doing so can actually help you put off claiming your own Social Security benefits until full retirement age, letting the amount you're ultimately entitled to increase. For people who were born between the in the years 1943 and 1954, Social Security's full retirement age is 66 years old.

In order to qualify for spousal benefits after divorce:

  • Both of you must be at least 62 years old.
  • You must have been married for at least 10 years.
  • You cannot currently be remarried to someone else.
  • If you've been divorced for less than two years, you can't collect a spousal benefit until your ex claims his or her own benefits.

The spousal benefit is based on the other person's lifetime earnings. However, the fact that an ex-spouse is claiming that benefit doesn't impact the amount that the other person is entitled to. In fact, they don't even have to know that their ex is collecting spousal benefits.

Spouses and ex-spouses can claim up to 50 percent of their husband or wife's benefit. Ex-spouses can collect spousal benefits on each other's earnings record if they meet the qualifications listed above, which can provide a little extra income for both people after divorce.

Some older divorced people make a calculation that they're better off financially if they don't remarry and have to give up their spousal benefit on their ex's record. However, those who remarry and divorce again can choose which former spouse's Social Security to collect a spousal benefit on. There are ways, however, that you can claim survivor benefits on an ex who passed away even if you remarry.

If you're divorcing as you head into your senior years, it's essential to work to ensure that you have the money you need to have the comfortable retirement you've always dreamed of. With the help of your Arizona family law attorney and a good financial advisor, you can make wise decisions for your future.

Source: Kiplinger, "Claim a Benefit From an Ex-Spouse," Rachel L. Sheedy, accessed Oct. 11, 2017

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