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Can an ex-spouse collect on the other ex-spouse's old age benefits?

The climbing rate of divorce among older Americans has been well documented in recent years, and divorcing baby boomers often have financial and property concerns that younger people may not. One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of property division among older people was recently discussed in a Huffington Post article, and we'd like to touch on that matter here.

The issue is whether a person can receive Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse's work record. The answer is yes, depending on certain criteria, the main one being that the spouses must have been married for a minimum of 10 years.

In fact, you can still collect old age or survivors benefits even if your ex-spouse remarried. If you remarry, however, then the second marriage must have also ended before you can receive old age benefits based on either ex-spouse's work record. You can choose which former spouse, but not both.

Another requirement is that you have to be at least 62 years of age to collect based on an ex-spouse's work record. If you have a work record, then the amount of old age benefits you would receive must be lower than the benefits afforded through your ex-spouse's record.

It should be noted, too, that what you receive in terms of divorced-spouse benefits will not have any impact on the amount that anyone else receives. Generally, spousal benefits amount to 50 percent of the benefits afforded to the spouse on whose work record the benefit is based. That is, unless you're collecting survivor benefits, in which case you can receive 100 percent of your deceased former spouse's payout.

No matter your age, if you're planning a divorce, it is important to account for all financial matters now and in the future. A divorce attorney with experience in property division can go over all of your concerns and help you plan for a divorce agreement that protects your interests.

Source: Huffington Post, "Social Security and Divorce: Can You Collect Benefits on Your Ex's Earning Record?" Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Sept. 10, 2014

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