How Divorce Impacts Social Security Disability Benefits

how divorce impacts Social Security Disability benefits

Social Security is incredibly complex, especially if you’re applying for disability benefits. Once you meet all the medical qualifications for Social Security disability (SSD), you’re only halfway done. In fact, any changes in your marital status can affect your eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).



Not All Social Security Disability Benefits Are The Same

How divorce will affect Social Security disability payments is a common issue many beneficiaries worry about. However, getting divorced only impacts certain Social Security disability payments (specifically, SSI). That’s because the Social Security Administration (SSA) issues these payments to disabled Americans with little to no income or financial assets. But the good news is, if you’re approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your benefits won’t necessarily change along with your relationship status.

That’s because you don’t have to meet strict income and asset limit requirements to qualify for SSDI payments. You just have to work five of the last 10 years full-time at a job that withholds FICA taxes from your paychecks. Things become more complicated when you’re talking specifically about Social Security retirement benefits. In addition, your ex-spouse could qualify to collect Social Security benefits based on your work record, in certain cases. We’ll explain how divorce can impact certain monthly disability payments below.

How Divorced Spouses Can Qualify for SSDI Benefits

According to the SSA, in order for anyone to qualify for Social Security disability benefits based on a divorced spouse’s record, the applicant must:

  1. Have been legally married to the ex-spouse for at least 10 years
  2. Be at least 62 years old and not yet remarried
  3. Be ineligible for a higher disability or retirement benefit amount based on the applicant’s own Social Security record

When One Of You Reaches Full Retirement Age, Your SSD Benefits May End

SSDI payments automatically switch to Social Security retirement benefits when you reach your full retirement age. So, the longest you can get Social Security disability on your ex-spouse’s record is from age 62 to 65 or 66, most likely. However, if you draw SSD benefits on your own record and your ex-spouse is close to retirement age, you can potentially collect even more money.

According to Social Security press officer Kia Green Anderson, a disabled person can start collecting an ex-spouse’s retirement benefits on their 62nd birthday. But you’re also entitled to some of your ex-spouse’s retirement benefits, provided your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.

SSA expert Larry Kotlikoff wrote a PBS column about this issue. Kotlikoff says the SSA automatically considers ex-spouses as having applied for their own retirement benefits once they reach 62, even if they haven’t actually done so. According to Kotlikoff, getting divorced is the only way people can triple-dip into Social Security benefits.

You May Qualify for Legal Assistance

There are many factors that can impact whether an ex-spouse can receive additional benefits. If you are considering applying for Social Security disability benefits and may soon get divorced or have an ex-spouse who is going to receive Social Security retirement benefits in the near future, talk to a lawyer. An experienced disability lawyer or advocate can explain all possible Social Security benefits you may qualify for after you’re divorced, free of charge. Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free disability benefits evaluation now.

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