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Obtaining Social Security benefits after a divorce

Some divorced Massachusetts retirees may not be aware that they could receive Social Security benefits based on the work history of an ex-spouse. If an individual qualifies, he or she may be eligible for benefits of up to 50 percent of what a former spouse receives, or will receive, at the full federal retirement age, which is currently 66 years of age. If the other spouse is already receiving Social Security, it does not matter how long it has been since the divorce.

However, if the other party is not yet receiving -- but is eligible (at least 62 years old) -- for benefits, the couple must be divorced at least two years. Other criteria must be met as well. The couple must have been married at least 10 years and the spouse applying for the benefit cannot be remarried. Other conditions may apply as well. The amount received does not affect the amount the other spouse receives.

This benefit can make a tremendous difference for the applying spouse. For instance, a woman in her 60s found herself divorced and struggling to make ends meet on her own. She was a stay-at-home mom for so many years that her skills were not up-to-date, making it difficult for her to find employment. She was not aware that she could receive a divorced spouse benefit from the Social Security Administration. When she found out, she nearly cried.

Growing numbers of couples nationwide, and here in Massachusetts, are filing for divorce later in life. For one reason or another, one spouse may not leave the marriage with a settlement that allows them to live comfortably. Receiving a divorced spouse benefit could make all the difference for some who are getting a divorce.

Source: Fox Business, "Divorced, With (Social Security) Benefits", Gail Buckner, June 3, 2014

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