A Pocket Guide: Social Security Disability and Divorce

If you receive Social Security disability benefits and are divorced or in the process of divorce, the lines between what you do and don’t owe to your ex-spouse can be complicated and confusing. In reality, there are several factors that go into play when determining benefits for an ex-spouse, which is why Woodruff & Mathis has put together a quick reference guide to Social Security disability and divorce.

Social Security Disability and Divorce

There are certain conditions that need to be met for a divorced person to collect their former spouses’ Social Security disability benefits. These conditions include:

  • Marriage must have lasted more than 10 years
    Minimum age to collect is 62-years old
    Former spouse must be entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits
    Applicant cannot currently be married

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits, there are a few ways your payments could be impacted by divorce.

Assuming there are no other facets to the situation, a divorced spouse will typically receive 50% of the amount of their disabled ex-partner’s monthly disability payments.

If there are other factors to the situation aside from simply divorce, this amount received can vary. For example, if your ex-spouse passes away or you have children that are under the age of 16-years old or disabled themselves, disability benefits look a bit different.

Survivor’s Benefits

An individual may be entitled to collect disability benefits on their ex-partner’s earnings record if he or she passes away or is deceased. This is referred to as “Survivor’s Benefits.” In order to be eligible, the following conditional requirements need to be met:

  • Marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years
    Surviving individual is more than 50-years old and disabled, or over 60-years old
    Surviving individual has not remarried
    Surviving individual is not eligible for their own Social Security disability payment larger than their ex-spouse’s payment amount
    Surviving individual is eligible for mother’s or father’s benefit

A surviving divorced spouse’s benefits vary between 75% and 100%, depending on the age of the living individual. An ex-spouse between age 60 and full retirement age, usually 66-67, will receive anywhere from 75-99% of benefits. An ex-spouse who is of or past full retirement age will receive 100% of benefits.

As noted above, the amount of disability one is able to collect from their ex-partner also depends on what the childcare situation is like, called “Parental Benefits.”

Parental Benefits

Generally, a mother or father who is responsible for a minor or child with disabilities will receive 75% of their ex-spouse’s primary insurance amount if they are deceased, regardless of their age when death occurs.

If the divorced spouse is collecting parental benefits and their children are also simultaneously collecting disability, oftentimes the divorced spouse’s benefit will be reduced as it cannot be greater than the maximum family benefit amount. The maximum is typically 150% of the deceased partner’s monthly benefit payments. That said, if an ex-spouse is receiving benefits based on being over 60-years old or disabled, those are not counted towards the maximum family benefit.

Divorcing While Receiving Disability Benefits

If you are actively receiving any SSI benefits during your divorce, your payments may actually go up anyway. SSI payments are need-based and calculated on the number of available resources you have, which can include spousal income. That said, if you’re awarded alimony as part of your divorce, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers this part of your countable income.

If you are getting a divorce or re-marrying, be sure to report these updates to the SSA so they are able to accurately calculate your disability benefits.

Key Takeaways of Social Security Disability and Divorce

  • A divorced spouse may be able to collect Social Security disability benefits from their ex-spouse, depending on eligibility
    If all conditional requirements are met, it’s possible for an ex-spouse to claim 50% of disability benefits from their former partner
    Assuming all conditional requirements are met, an ex-spouse can claim 100% of disability benefits if their ex passes away

Contact Attorneys at Woodruff & Mathis

With over 20 years of Social Security law experience, attorney Samuel Mathis understands how complicated the ins and outs of disability benefits can be. If you have questions regarding Maine Social Security disability and divorce, request an appointment with us at Woodruff & Mathis today.