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Social Security benefits and divorce in Rhode Island

Residents of Rhode Island may have noticed an increase in baby boomer divorces. In fact, "gray divorces" are becoming more common across the country. When couples in their 50s, 60s and beyond divorce, they face unique issues that may not be of concern to younger divorcees, particularly when it comes to their finances. One issue that may weigh heavily on their minds is Social Security benefits. What happens to a person's eligibility for Social Security benefits if he or she gets a divorce?

Many in Rhode Island may be surprised to hear that in some circumstances, a person can collect Social Security benefits based on what his or her ex paid into the Social Security system, even if the couple is divorced. In order for this to take place, the couple must have been married for 10 years or more and the spouse collecting benefits based on what his or her ex paid into the Social Security system must not have remarried. However, one should keep in mind that if his or her ex-spouse is currently receiving disability or retirement benefits, the couple must have been divorced for two years before one spouse can start collecting benefits based on what his or her ex paid into the Social Security system.

For example, say a person's ex-spouse is eligible for $3,000 in monthly Social Security payments. That person can receive half of his or her ex-spouse's benefit amount starting at age 66, thus deferring the amount of benefits that he or she may have received based on his or her own payments into the Social Security system. In the meantime, that person's benefits continue to increase until that person has reached age 70. If at that age that person's benefits amount to more than the benefits of his or her ex-spouse, that person will receive whichever amount is greater. In fact, each spouse can collect on the other's benefits, if the other is age 62 or above.

Social Security payments can be an important part of any Rhode Island divorced individual's retirement income. Since other retirement accounts may have been divided in the divorce proceedings, Social Security benefits become more important than ever. Those with questions about their right to Social Security after a divorce may want to consult with a professional.

Source: Money, "How To Profit From a Spouse's Social Security Benefits-Even After Divorce," Philip Moeller, June 5, 2015

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