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Divorce and Social Security: What you need to know

If you are prepping for divorce, your mind may be pulled in a million different directions. You may be wondering how you will support yourself and how your children may be affected by the transition, and you may also be curious about how any Social Security benefits you may be entitled to could be affected. Your Social Security benefits play an important role in your retirement, so it is essential that anyone going through a divorce understand what the change in marital status may mean as far as repercussions.

Criteria for obtaining benefits when your ex-spouse is still alive

In order for you to receive work-related retirement benefits from your ex following a divorce, you must meet certain criteria. First, your marriage had to last 10 years or more, and second, you must not be remarried. Third, you must be above the age of 62. Additionally, the amount of your ex's benefits must exceed that of any you may be entitled to on your own. If this is not the case, you will get only the benefits that you, personally, are entitled to - you cannot obtain two sets of benefits.

Criteria for obtaining benefits when your ex-spouse is deceased

The conditions for obtaining your ex-spouse's retirement benefits after your ex has passed on differ somewhat from those associated with a living ex-spouse. While in both cases, your former partner's benefits cannot exceed any you could get on your own and you must be married at least 10 years, you only have to be 60 to begin receiving benefits if your ex has died (unless you are legally disabled, in which case you may do so once you turn 50). If, however, you marry again before you hit 60 (or 50, if you are disabled), you are no longer entitled to the benefits of your ex.

How any children you share may affect benefits

If you and your ex-partner share a child or children, you can generally receive your ex's benefits even if you are not of a certain age, provided that the child or children are in your care and under the age of 16. The benefits do end once the child reaches the age of 16, however. Having children also affects your ability to get benefits in that you do not have to meet the 10-year marriage criteria to obtain them, as is the case when children are not involved.

Divorcing has many financial repercussions, and thoroughly understanding them is a great way to avoid finding yourself in trouble down the line. For more about how divorce affects your benefits and finances, consider contacting a lawyer.

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