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Pennsylvania divorce and Social Security

Planning for divorce involves numerous financial matters. And, Social Security from a former spouse and retirement are issues that can have a long-lasting impact after the end of a marriage.

A spouse can collect from the ex-spouse's Social Security benefits, even if the former spouse remarried, if several requirements are met. First, the marriage had to have lasted at least 10 years. The spouse seeking these benefits must also be at least 62-years-old and remain unmarried.

Additionally, the former spouse must also be entitled to Social Security retirement and disability benefits. The benefit that the spouse may receive based on their work is less than the benefit based on the former spouse's employment.

If the spouse remarries, benefits collected on the former spouse's record are terminated, unless this subsequent marriage ends by death, a divorce or annulment. If the former spouse is qualified, but did not file for retirement benefits, the spouse can still obtain these benefits, if they were divorce for at least two years.

When a spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on the spouse's record and the former spouse's benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will first pay the retirement benefits. When the ex-spouse's record has higher benefits, the SSA will pay additional amounts on the ex-spouse's record to assure that the combination of benefits matches the higher amount. The limit on retirement benefits applies to a spouse who still works while receiving benefits.

Two other matters may also impact these Social Security benefits. First, the benefits that spouses receive because of their ex-spouse's record may be affected if the spouse receives a pension from employment that is not covered by Social Security.

Also, spouses who were born before January 2, 1954, and reached full retirement age can elect to receive the former spouse's benefit and delay receiving the retirement benefit until later. However, this option for electing for one benefit at the full age of retirement is unavailable to spouse's born after that date. Filing for one benefit is treated as filing for all retirement or spousal benefits.

Seeking these benefits and other spousal support often requires legal and financial planning. A lawyer can help present options on these and other divorce legal issues.

Source: SSA.gov, "Retirement planner: If you are divorced," accessed on Aug. 21, 2016

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