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Social security benefits could affect the timing of a divorce

Numerous issues need consideration before making the decision to end a marriage. Once that decision is made, when to file for divorce takes center stage. For Utah couples that are close to reaching their 10-year anniversary, that decision could influence the parties' future in an unexpected way.

After 10 years or more of marriage, one party may be eligible to collect a portion of the other spouse's social security benefits. Couples that are nowhere near retirement may not consider this fact when negotiating a divorce settlement. It could potentially offset the receipt of another asset by the spouse who will receive benefits.

Other than being married for at least 10 years, the ex-spouse must be unmarried and at least 62 years old. Additionally, the spouse whose benefits will be apportioned must be eligible to receive -- but does not have to be receiving -- disability or retirement benefits from Social Security. When the individual is eligible to receive benefits, he or she will receive the difference between his or her benefits and the portion of benefits the receiving party would get from the other party.

The benefits are available as long as the receiving spouse is unmarried. During a subsequent marriage, benefits stop. However, should that marriage end through death or divorce, the benefits can resume.

It may seem callous to wait to file for a Utah divorce until the 10-year mark just to receive a portion of an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits. However, as the population ages, those benefits could be crucial to a person's income later in life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to receive all of the benefits to which a person is entitled when his or her marriage ends. For many people, it is not about hurting the other party, but instead about providing for one's own future.

Source: MarketWatch, How divorce, remarriage impact Social Security, Robert Powell, Feb. 18, 2014

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