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McCurrie McCurrie
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Divorced? You could be receiving more in Social Security

Couples who have recently divorced in New Jersey probably know that they can use the Social Security benefits of their former spouse when it comes time to receive them. Though this may be common knowledge for those involved a modern divorce, it may not have been for those that happened decades ago. Many of these people are eligible to receive Social Security now and could be receiving far less than they are able.

Family law can be confusing. That's why anyone with a divorced parent, especially one that is currently in retirement, should discuss this subject with loved ones.

Many marriages years ago separated responsibilities based on gender. Women were often stuck with domestic work while men worked for income. This allowed the men to gain better Social Security benefits as they paid more into the fund.

If a marriage like this ended, it often left the wife working low-income jobs later on, possibly for the rest of her life. This would give her some Social Security benefits, but likely an amount much smaller than that of her former husband.

Say she managed to create an $800 monthly benefit that she is now eligible for since she is in retirement. Her former husband, on the other hand, has a benefit that is $2,000. If he is still alive -- regardless of whether or not he has remarried --and the marriage lasted longer than 10 years, she can receive a benefit equal to half of his.

That means she could be getting an additional $200 per month.

If he is deceased, she could get the full amount of $2,000. Better yet, retroactive payments can be made for up to six months.

There are other stipulations to this, such as whether or not the former spouse with lower benefits ever remarried and whether or not it occurred after the age of 60.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "When a Divorce Pays Off," Ellen E. Schultz, Jan. 14, 2012

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