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Divorce and Social Security

When couples are in a dispute regarding property division, they may not be in agreement regarding real estate they own, money and liquid assets. However, many couples may not be aware that they may be entitled to future benefits, including a portion of retirement accounts and Social Security benefits.

According to a spokesman of the Social Security Administration's press office, there are some situations in which a spouse can receive benefits from a spouse's Social Security benefits whom he or she divorced. In order to receive benefits, the marriage must have lasted 10 years or more. Additionally, the person must be unmarried and not be entitled to a higher amount of benefits based on his or her own employment record. The person must be at least 62 years old before he or she can collect these benefits. Furthermore, the ex-spouse must be eligible to receive their own Social Security benefits even if he or she has not yet applied for them. However, if the ex-spouse is not yet receiving his benefits, the couple must have been divorced for at least two years before the other spouse can collect on the benefits.

Additionally, if the ex-spouse dies, the other spouse can still receive Social Security benefits as long as the living ex-spouse is at least 60 years old or at least 50 years old and disabled. Once a spouse is eligible to receive benefits, he or she will receive a combination of his or her own benefits and the former spouse's benefits equal to the greater amount of benefits if the ex-spouse's benefit amount was greater.

A skilled divorce attorney can take many factors into consideration when arguing for an equitable division of property obtained during the marriage. He or she may request for bank accounts, retirement accounts and Social Security benefits to be taken into consideration by the court.

Source: CNN Money, "How does divorce affect Social Security benefits?," Austin Kilham, Dec. 31, 2012

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