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Can you claim a spouse's Social Security after divorce?

Most Texas spouses are aware that married couples have a range of options when planning their Social Security strategy. However, few realize that the ability to make a claim against the work record of one's spouse does not always end when the marriage goes through a divorce. For many spouses, claiming through a former spouse's work record can play a central role in their own retirement planning.

In order for an individual to be able to make a claim against the work record of a former spouse, a number of conditions must be met. First, the claiming spouse must be at least 62 years of age and cannot be married when the claim is made. In addition, the marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years.

The amount that can be claimed is approximately 50 percent of what the former spouse is entitled to. However, the real benefit lies in the fact that a divorced spouse who claims against the work record of their ex is able to defer claiming against his or her own record until reaching full retirement age. This means that one's own Social Security benefits will grow at a rate of 8 percent a year until the age of 70.

This little-known aspect of Social Security is an important consideration for many Texas spouses. For those who are nearing their 10th anniversary, it might make sense to delay the divorce until that date has passed. Doing so can give one or both spouses a significant advantage in their eventual retirement strategy.

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

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