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Drawing Social Security retirement benefits after a divorce

People in Michigan who are divorced might be able to draw Social Security benefits on a former spouse's contributions although several conditions must be in place. The person receiving the benefits must not be remarried, but the ex-spouse can be. The marriage must also have lasted 10 years or more.

The person collecting must be at least 62 years old. If the divorce happened at least two years ago and the former spouse is eligible for but not yet claiming benefits, the person can begin doing so. However, if the divorce was more recent, the ex-spouse must already be claiming benefits.

It is possible to collect up to half of the former spouse's benefit. However, in general, 50% will only be paid if the person has never worked outside the home and has no Social Security benefits coming. In most other cases, the person receives a portion of that 50% to bring the total up to half of what the ex-spouse receives. In other words, if 50% of the ex-spouse's benefit is $800 monthly and the individual already receives $600 monthly, an additional $200 will come from the ex-spouse's working record to make the total $800. If the person's benefit is already more than 50% of the ex-spouse's benefit, there will be no additional payment. This payment does not reduce what the ex-spouse receives.

People who are going through a divorce may need to make a number of changes to their retirement planning, particularly if they are near retirement. It is costlier to maintain two households instead of one, so even if they split their retirement savings, they may still each have to budget more carefully. During negotiations over property division, people should keep this in mind. They may want to discuss strategies for property division with an attorney, who might help with negotiations or litigation.

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Lorrie J. Zahodnic

"I will hold you up until you can stand on your own two feet."

Lorrie J. Zahodnic, P.C. has provided skilled and compassionate legal guidance to Michiganders in family law matters for over 20 years.

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