Divorce and Social Security payments from an ex-spouse

When people in Rhode Island divorce a spouse they were married to for more than 10 years, it may be possible to draw Social Security payments on that spouse's work history. The divorce must have been at least two years ago, and both people must be over the age of 62 for a person to start collecting this payment.

A calculation known as the Primary Insurance Amount is used to determine how much a person receives in Social Security payments. This is the best 35 earning years of a person's life taken as a monthly average. For spousal benefits, the entire PIA is subtracted from 50 percent of the ex-spouse's PIA. A negative number indicates the person is not eligible for additional spousal benefits. Any positive number is the amount the person will receive.

The person collecting payments must also remain single; however, if the person married and that marriage ended, it may be possible to collect payments from a previous marriage. This collection does not affect the benefit amount of the ex-spouse on whose earnings the payment is based. Waiting until the full retirement age of 67 may result in bigger payments, and in some cases, waiting until 70 will further increase the amount of payment.

Retirement may be a particular concern for older adults who are getting a divorce. If one person has been a low earner or has not worked outside the home, that person might be concerned about finances after the divorce. However, if there is a retirement account, it might be split between the two. Couples should make sure they know the regulations about splitting a pension or retirement account to avoid incurring taxes and penalties if possible. The lower-earning spouse might also receive alimony for a certain period of time.

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Nicholas J. Hemond Attorney at Law
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Phone: 401-648-6509
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