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Divorcées may be eligible for extra social security benefits

Many Marylanders who have gone through a divorce may now be approaching retirement age. With retirement comes the question of when to apply for social security benefits and how to go about doing so.

Specifically, what some divorced Marylanders may not know is that they may be eligible for an option under which they can get additional social security retirement benefits on account of their ex-spouse. While social security law can be quite complex, a knowledgeable Howard County divorce lawyer representing a divorcing person should be able at least to point his or her client in the right direction as to this matter. The Social Security Administration online website may also provide helpful information.

In general, a person who wishes to apply for benefits under this option must be 62 years of age and must have been married to his or her ex-spouse for at least 10 years. The ex-spouse must have a right to social security benefits himself or herself; however, he or she need not have applied for those benefits. Finally, the person applying for these benefits cannot currently be re-married.

The amount ranges the benefits ranges from zero up to one-half of amount of the retirement benefit that the former spouse either is receiving or is entitled to receive. The precise amount will depend on a number of circumstances, such as whether the person applying for the benefits is currently working.

For those who worry about creating or aggravating an acrimonious relationship with one's former spouse, it may be comforting to know that asking for this type of social security benefit will not thereby reduce the ex-spouse's benefits.

Still, there may be strategic reasons not to apply for this retirement benefit or to apply for it with the understanding that one can always re-align his or her benefits later to generate a larger payout.

A family law attorney should be able to answer basic questions about how to go about applying for this special benefit and, in some situations, may even assist a client with doing so.

Source: Stamford Advocate, "Divorce could play role in social security benefits," Feb. 22, 2013.

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