Divorce May Impact Your Disability Benefits

Judge gavel and two golden marriage ring, a couple is signing on a divorce agreement

How a divorce will affect a person’s disability benefits hinges on whose earnings the benefits are based upon. If the benefits stem from an individual’s earning record, the amount will remain unchanged, unless the income is garnished by the courts for child support, alimony, and similar payments. If the benefits are based on a spouse’s earning record or disability, payments may change.

Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits

In many cases, SSI benefits increase after a divorce. SSI is a needs-based program, so the amount of benefits is based on the amount of resources available to a person. A person may qualify for higher payments if a prior spouse was contributing to the living expenses, divorce causes a decrease in household income or assets are split in the divorce. However, if a person is awarded alimony (spousal support) after a divorce, the benefits might decrease.

SSDI Based on Work Record

If an individual receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits based on work history, payments will not be affected by divorce since the benefits are solely based on the individual’s work record, not his or her spouse’s. 

Social Security Dependents Benefits

How divorce will affect dependents’ benefits will be determined by the type of benefits a person is receiving.

Spouse’s Benefit

If a person is 62 years or older and drew SSDI based on a spouse who qualifies, he or she will continue receiving the same amount each month, unless the marriage lasted for 10 years or less, he or she gets remarried or becomes eligible for a larger benefit based on personal disability.

Divorced Spousal Benefit

Even if a person wasn’t receiving a spouse’s benefits, he or she may be eligible to collect a divorced spouse’s benefit based on the ex-spouse’s Social Security work record. This is the case if the person is at least 62 years old, was married to the ex-spouse for at least 10 years, is unmarried and is not eligible for a larger benefit under his or her own Social Security record. 

Divorced Spouse’s Survivors Benefit

A person may still be eligible for disability benefits if the ex-spouse is deceased and was fully insured for benefits. To receive these benefits, a person must be at least 50 years old and disabled, was married to the ex-spouse for at least 10 years, has not remarried and is not eligible for a more substantial benefit.

Social Security Disability

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