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Collecting SSA benefits on an former spouse's earnings

When parties to a divorce in Charlotte think of dividing retirement benefits, assets such as pensions, 401k accounts and IRAs are normally the things considered. Many people do not realize that Social Security Benefits are also benefits an ex-spouse can receive.

For certain relationships, a retired party to a divorce can calculate their own SSA retirement benefits based on the earnings of their ex-spouse. For those who qualify, the enhanced benefits based on the ex-spouse's gainful earnings are added to the recipients own benefits.

This rule can be a windfall if one spouse earned substantially less than their ex. The maximum permitted is one half of the ex-spouse's retirement amount, provided the recipient is at full retirement age. There are several qualifiers set forth by Social Security. First, the rule only applies to marriages lasting more than 10 years. Second, the recipient must remain single while collecting the enhanced benefits. Third, the receipt of enhanced benefits is still allowed if the ex has remarried. Fourth, the minimum age for claiming these benefits is 62. The benefit amount is reduced if taken before reaching full retirement age.

Social Security maintains a record of earnings for those who qualify and can estimate benefits based on a number of factors. Those contacting the agency can obtain an estimate of how much the enhanced benefit may be.

When contacting the agency, both the retiree's Social Security number and the ex-spouse's will be necessary. The administration may require additional proof, such as birth certificates, copies of the divorce decree and proof of marital status. For one earning less than their ex-spouse who is concerned about retirement income, this benefit may be worth exploring. If a couple is approaching retirement age while involved in a high-asset divorce, this is an issue that could be considering while dividing retirement assets.

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