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Claiming Social Security spousal benefits

Even though a California couple may divorce, one spouse could still be able to claim Social Security benefits on the other's earnings. However, the marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years. Also, the ex must have earned significantly more income than the spouse claiming spousal benefits.

Spousal benefits are calculated by taking the primary insurance amount of a person and subtracting it from half of the ex's primary insurance amount. The PIA averages how much money a person earned on average each month during the best 35 years of earnings. A negative number means the person will not get any benefits.

If a person does qualify for benefits, several other elements must be in place. The divorce must have been at least two years ago, and the person receiving the benefits can't be remarried. If the person remarried and that marriage ends, it may be possible to start the benefits again. Both spouses must be over the age of 62, but if a spouse waits until the retirement age of 67 or even later, the benefits will be larger.

In divorces involving significant assets, a person might also receive payment from an ex's retirement account and other assets. For example, there could be real estate, investment accounts or even a business. In a community property state like California, property acquired after marriage is usually considered marital property. Therefore, even if one spouse did not work outside the home, that spouse might be entitled to half of the assets. The higher-earning spouse might also be required to pay support. An attorney could help explain how the financial side of the divorce might proceed.

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