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How Social Security benefits may be paid after divorce

Pennsylvania residents who divorce after 10 or more years of marriage might be able to draw on their spouse's Social Security benefits after retirement. However, there are a few limitations. They can only draw on up to 50 percent of the spouse's benefits, and they can only do so if their spouse's benefits are greater than their own would be. They also cannot be remarried although if they remarry and they divorce again or their spouse dies, they can draw on the previous spouse's benefits. They can begin drawing on their former spouse's benefits even if the other spouse has not done so yet, but it must be at least two years since the divorce.

Social Security pays out to people with a work history of at least 10 years, so a former spouse's benefits could be critical for a person who has not worked outside the home much. People can begin drawing on Social Security payments at 62 although they will only receive a reduced amount. Depending on the year of a person's birth, full retirement age varies between 66 and 67.

If a person's former spouse is receiving benefits based on their Social Security contributions, that person's benefits will not be reduced. To apply for the spousal benefit, people will need a copy of their divorce decree.

There can be much at stake in terms of financial security in a divorce. This may be particularly true if one person has been the main breadwinner and the other person has not worked outside the home. One person might be concerned about holding onto the assets they have accumulated, such as real estate holdings, while the other person might be worried about how they will support themselves and getting their fair share of assets such as a retirement account.

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