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Social Security benefits and divorced spouses

Texas residents may know that the Social Security Administration has rules in place that are designed to protect the interests of spouses who have sacrificed a career in order to raise a family. However, they may not be aware that divorced spouses may be also entitled to Social Security benefits based on the incomes of their former husbands or wives in certain situations. These provisions may apply even if the former spouse has subsequently remarried.

When deciding whether or not a divorced spouse is entitled to these benefits, the Social Security Administration first looks to see if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years. The SSA uses the dates on the marriage certificate and divorce decree to determine the length of the marriage. If the marriage lasted for 10 years or longer, people who have been divorced for at least two years may be eligible to begin receiving benefits based on the incomes of their former husbands or wives.

People who remarry are generally not entitled to these Social Security benefits, but an exemption to this rule is made for widows or widowers who remarry after reaching the age of 60. The amount that former spouses receive is based primarily on when they choose to start receiving their benefits. Those who wait until they reach the full retirement age, which varies depending on their year of birth, receive more than people who opt for early retirement.

Family law attorneys will likely be familiar with the Social Security Administration rules for divorced spouses, and they may suggest that those contemplating a divorce who are close to their tenth wedding anniversary wait until this milestone has passed before proceeding. Attorneys may also review the provisions of other retirement funds, such as 401(k) or IRA accounts, before beginning property division negotiations.

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