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Social Security benefits, divorce and the rights of ex-spouses

A woman who went through two separate divorces after being married to each spouse for more than 15 years wondered about collecting her former husbands' Social Security benefits. She worked although her income did not come close to matching her ex-partners' earnings. She wondered if she could collect benefits from either spouse or just from her most recent husband. In this case, property division can be a tricky question.

According to information provided by the Social Security administration, she can collect benefits from the man who earned the most. However, if she remarries, she cannot collect the benefits from either spouse unless her most recent marriage ends. She can receive his retirement benefits if she qualifies at age 62 or older and if her marriage ended at least two years ago.

In some situations, she may be able to claim benefits from one spouse and then collect later from the other spouse as well, especially if she filed before she was eligible for full retirement. Every situation is different, so the Social Security office or a qualified family attorney should be able to provide her with more information.

If a former husband has passed away, she will be able to receive survivor benefits. Even if she remarries after age 60, or age 50 if she is disabled, she could still collect the payments.

Couples approaching retirement deal with different economic factors because of Social Security considerations. A family attorney might be able to give solid advice regarding the collection of Social Security benefits and about the most financially beneficial way to do so.

Source: Fox Business, "Divorce Doesn't have to Separate You from Benefits," Dr. Don Taylor, March 13, 2013

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