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Calculating Social Security benefits after divorce

Many retirees in Virginia rely on Social Security payments for at least a portion of their income, so it’s important that they know how much money they should be receiving. Divorcees who were married for at least 10 years may be entitled to a portion of their ex-spouse’s SS benefits in addition to their own, provided certain conditions are met.

For starters, a person cannot claim entitlement to an ex-spouse’s SS benefits if they are currently married. A person must be at least 62 years old to begin withdrawing any SS benefits and must reach full retirement age (66 or 67, depending on date of birth) before being able to withdraw the entire portion. Individuals who are entitled to a portion of their ex’s benefits must also wait two years after their divorce is finalized to withdraw benefits, unless the ex-spouse retires and begins withdrawing benefits for himself or herself sooner.

To be eligible to receive SS benefits from an ex-spouse, the ex-spouse’s benefits must exceed one’s own. For example, someone who has a monthly benefit of $900 cannot take any portion of an ex-spouse’s $500 monthly benefit. Even if an ex’s benefits do exceed one’s own, the portion of those benefits to which the other ex-spouse is entitled must still exceed that person’s own benefits. Individuals may not combine their benefits with an ex-spouse’s.

If someone has a $500 monthly benefit and is entitled to 50% of an ex-spouse’s $1,200 monthly benefit, that person will receive $600 per month total, $500 from his or her own benefits and another $100 from the ex-spouse. Individuals who need help determining whether they are entitled to an ex-spouse’s benefits may want to consult with a family law attorney.

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