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Social Security benefits and filing for divorce

Social Security retirement benefits may be affected by divorce, because the duration of the marriage prior to divorce or the subsequent death of one spouse can impact the amount the other spouse can receive. Maryland residents should keep in mind that Social Security retirement benefits are governed by federal law.

In order to claim Social Security retirement benefits based on an ex- spouse's income after a divorce, a marriage must have lasted at least 10 years. The 10-year requirement means that the couple must have been married for 10 consecutive years. If they remarry after getting divorced, spouses will be unable to claim benefits based on their spouse's income if they were not married for at least 10 years previously, even if the couple was married for only a few months short of 10 years.

Some spouses may be eligible for survivor's retirement benefits when their spouse dies if they were married at least nine months and were married at the time of the spouse's death or if they were married at least 10 years previously before divorcing. This can allow the surviving spouse to receive 100 percent of the Social Security retirement income his or her spouse was receiving at the time of death.

Being able to claim a spouse's income can make a huge difference in retirement income. This may especially impact spouses who decided to stay at home and take care of children during the marital years or who worked but never made as much as their spouse.

A family law attorney may be able to assist potential clients who have questions about how a divorce could affect their future retirement benefits. The attorney can also answer questions about property division, child custody, alimony, prenuptial agreements and other issues related to a potential divorce.

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