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Arizona divorce: Can you get your ex-spouse's SSI benefits?

An Arizona divorce covers a myriad of issues, from property division to spousal maintenance and a host of other topics. One issue that arises in some divorce proceedings is the entitlement of an ex-spouse to the Social Security benefits of the other. This is an important area which should not be overlooked and could result in benefits payments from a spouse's Social Security account over many years. However, like most governmental benefit programs, Social Security benefits come with their own rules and regulations which often cause confusion as the parties to a divorce attempt to determine how the benefits might apply to them.

The first important consideration is the length of the marriage. When a marriage lasts 10 years or longer, a possibility exists to collect Social Security under the account of an ex-spouse. The Social Security Administration requires that the marriage lasted at least 10 years, which is determined by the date of the final order of divorce. In those instances where the length of the marriage qualifies, an ex-spouse can collect up to half of their ex-spouse's benefits. If they qualify for benefits on their own, they can only collect the difference between their benefits amount and one half of any higher benefit amount due the ex-spouse.

There are also different rules for ex-spouses who remarry, as well as for those instances where an ex-spouse dies. If a spouse remarries, they generally can no longer collect under their ex-spouse's benefits. However, if they subsequently divorce, they may be entitled to collect under the benefits of an earlier spouse. In the event of an ex-spouse who has died, benefits may begin at age 60 for both widowers and divorced ex-spouses. A remarriage after age 60 will not impact benefits under these circumstances, and those that are disabled can remarry after age 50 without losing the Social Security benefits of an ex-spouse.

These issues are best addressed in detail during divorce negotiations in Arizona. In that manner, each party can understand their rights and responsibilities under state and federal laws. Further, the question of Social Security eligibility under an ex-spouse's account may play an important part in discussions centered on achieving a fair and comprehensive divorce settlement.

Source: NewsObserver.com, "Filing for divorce can raise Social Security questions," Holly Nicholson, Nov. 3, 2012

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