Some disabled former spouses who apply for benefits from the Social Security Administration have an opportunity to increase the monthly benefit amount to which they are entitled following divorce. Spouses who are unable to work because of a disability may be able to collect Social Security disability payments. This would be based on earning records of the former spouse in certain, limited circumstances.
Lower income or non-earning former spouses may be eligible to collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments on a former spouse’s earnings record if they meet the following criteria:
- The higher earning spouse has died;
- The lower earning spouse has a disability-related impairment that makes him or her unable to sustain gainful employment;
- The former spouses were married for more than 10 years;
- The lower earning spouse is unmarried;
- The lower earning spouse is at least 62 years old; and
- The higher earning spouse has paid enough money into the SSDI program to be recently and fully insured by the program.
For more on disability benefits, see the Social Security Administration’s guide. It is important to note these dependent benefits for former spouses may be eligible for spouses who never worked or spouses who worked but made less money and paid less money into the SSDI program.
Applying for Survivors Benefits
Individuals who think they may qualify for these types of benefits can apply in the following ways.
- If you were already collecting SSDI benefits on your former partner’s record when he or she died. Call or visit your local Social Security office to notify them of the death. SSA will update your file to reflect the survivor benefits if you qualify. In limited circumstances, an estranged or divorced spouse or former spouse may also qualify for a lump sum death benefit.
- If you were already collecting SSDI benefits on your own earnings record when your former partner died. You must apply for survivor benefits. Parties can do so by calling or visiting their local SSA office.
- If you were not already collecting SSDI benefits when your former partner died. You will need to apply for survivor benefits. As above, parties can do so by contacting their local Social Security office. In addition, it may be helpful to have documents on hand, such as a former spouse’s death certificate, your and your former spouse’s Social Security numbers, your birth and marriage certificates, and divorce papers.
At Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C., we understand that sometimes life circumstances interfere with our client’s plans and goals. Especially in the area of divorce law, one’s financial future may be volatile and it becomes necessary to make adjustments. We work hard for our clients to try to enable them to live the lifestyles they were used to prior to divorce. During times of financial strain, we can work with our clients to suggest pragmatic alternatives to get our clients through difficult times and back on their feet. If you or someone you care about is struggling to make ends meet following marital separation, contact one of our experienced Oak Brook divorce attorneys. To learn more about your options for acquiring alimony or obtaining other types of spousal support, contact our Oak Brook office online or by telephone at (877) 889-4515.