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Social Security and divorce

When New Jersey couples get a divorce, if they have been married for at least 10 years, one person might be able to draw on the other person's earnings record for Social Security payments after retirement. The payments can actually start when the people are 62 although the benefits will be higher if they wait until the full retirement age of 67.

There are several other requirements that must be in place. The divorce must have been finalized at least two years before applying for benefits. The person must be single although if there was a remarriage that ended in annulment, death or divorce, it might still be possible to draw on a previous spouse's benefits. The other former spouse must also be at least 62. His or her benefits will not be affected in any way.

One income must be significantly higher than the other for one to draw spousal payments. The Personal Insurance Amount is the monthly amount a person will receive in Social Security benefits, and it is a monthly average of the best 35 earning years of a person's working life. Eligibility for spousal benefits is determined by subtracting a person's PIA from half of the ex-spouse's PIA. A negative number indicates that there is no spousal benefit. Any positive number is the amount the person will receive.

In any divorce, there are a number of other properties a person may have access to despite being the lower-earning spouse. For example, a person may be entitled to a portion of the retirement account. There may be a home, investments and even a business that needs to be divided. Having the assistance of family law counsel during the process can thus be advisable.

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