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What happens to Social Security benefits in divorce

Some people in Virginia may be unaware that even after a divorce, they may be able to claim Social Security benefits on an ex-spouse's income. A few elements must be in place for this to happen.

First, the marriage must have lasted 10 years or longer. Second, the person's benefit must be less than that of the spouse. The person must also be at least 62 years old and must remain unmarried.

Timing is also an issue. For people born after 1960, retirement age is 67. It is possible to begin drawing Social Security benefits at 62, but people will not be paid the full benefit amount. The full amount for a person drawing on a spouse's earnings is half of the spouse's amount. If the divorce happened two or more years ago, the person can apply for benefits on the spouse's income whether or not the spouse has done so. A person cannot collect on the benefits of an ex-spouse after remarrying although if that marriage ends in divorce, it is possible to resume doing so. As long as the above considerations are met, the person could instead draw on the benefits of the second ex-spouse. Whether a person is still working and other factors may also play a part in eligibility.

Getting a divorce near retirement may be particularly stressful for some people from a financial standpoint because it may significantly affect their retirement plans. Budgeting for Social Security benefits can help a person make decisions in the process of property division. Drawing on a spouse's earnings does not affect the amount of the benefit the spouse receives, but the couple may also need to divide a retirement account. In an uncontested divorce, they may reach an amicable agreement about the division of this and other shared property.

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