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Social Security benefits after divorce

Many Utah residents might not realize that they could receive a portion of their ex-spouses' Social Security benefits when they are eligible to collect them. Even if they are aware that it is possible, they might think they are not eligible based on how long ago the divorce happened. In fact, it does not matter how many years have passed since the divorce, the important question is how long the marriage lasted.

In many cases, one partner in the marriage made more money than the other, or one person stayed home to raise the children. In either case, he or she will not receive the same amount of Social Security benefits as the other. If the marriage lasted 10 or more years, it is possible to receive up to 50 percent of the amount of an ex-spouse's benefits, which could mean thousands of dollars a year in income for the recipient.

It is important to note, however, that it must be 10 consecutive years of marriage. For example, after being married for nine-and-a-half years, a couple divorced. At retirement, the ex-husband realized that he would be receiving a substantially larger amount in Social Security benefits than his ex-wife with whom he maintained an amicable relationship. He knew that they had to be married for 10 years before she could receive benefits and wondered if they remarried for just six more months if that would qualify her for his benefits. It might have been a good thought, but it would not have worked.

Therefore, if a Utah couple is contemplating divorce, and they have been married almost 10 years, it might be worth it to wait -- especially if the couple is as amicable as the one above. Of course, there are other requirements that need to be met before a divorced spouse can collect benefits, but first, the requirement regarding the length of the marriage must be met. Even if neither party is close to retirement age, Social Security benefits is another issue that should be taken into consideration.

Source: Fox Business, "Social Security & Divorce: Timing IS Everything!", Gail Buckner, Jan. 11, 2016

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