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Social Security benefits impacted by divorce

Not all people in New Jersey who are married understand how Social Security retirement benefits work with regard to marriage and divorce. However, it is important to master an understanding of this, particularly for those who are planning to get a divorce and have been married 10 years or longer. This is because a person who has been married 10 years or more and gets divorced may be eligible to later receive Social Security benefits based on his or her ex-spouse's work record.

Receiving retirement benefits based on an ex's record is possible if an individual was married for at least 10 years but only if an individual is not currently married and the ex is 62 years old or older. The benefit the person would receive based on the ex's record must also be greater than the benefit he or she would receive according to his or her personal work record. Finally, the person seeking benefits based on the ex's record must be eligible to receive Social Security.

Based on research conducted back in 2010, just 13 percent of survey participants knew how Social Security-related benefits were calculated. In addition, just 21 percent said they understood how a spouse's decision regarding when to claim retirement benefits from Social Security could impact their personal retirement benefit amounts. Understanding how divorce impacts Social Security benefits is important for all married and divorced individuals, especially women.

Women have a longer life expectancy than men do, and they usually have lower lifetime earnings. For these reasons, among others, women are typically more impacted by uninformed or incorrect Social Security claiming decisions as compared to men. For anyone in New Jersey who is considering divorce, appropriate legal guidance may help him or her to understand all of the ramifications of divorce, including how Social Security is impacted.

Source: marketwatch.com, "How divorce and death affect Social Security benefits", Robert Powell, April 18, 2016

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