October 17, 2019

How Do You Find Out if Your Ex-Husband is Receiving Disability Benefits

Over the past few months, I have regularly received questions from custodial parents (usually moms) who have heard through the grapevine that their ex-husbands have been awarded SSDI or SSI, and they want to know:

  1. can they go after the back benefit “lump sum” to recover past due child support; and
  2. are their minor children entitled to auxiliary benefits based on the father’s Social Security benefits

Here is my response:

First, you have to realize that there are two areas of law involved here – Social Security rules, which are federal, and state laws arising from state court child support orders.  Further state child support recovery units also may be involved, which creates yet another level of bureaucracy.

As discussed elsewhere on this blog, SSDI benefits may be attached to pay past due child support, but SSI benefits may not be attached.  However, a state court divorce or child support order is not “nullified” just because a non-custodial parent is receiving SSI.  Social Security may not be willing to withhold or seize payments on your behalf, but a parent who does not pay may have to answer to an angry state court judge and possibly face incarceration if he or she did not make some of his or her lump sum available to care for his or her child.

You should also be aware that Social Security privacy rules do not allow SSA personnel to reveal any information about your ex-spouse’s case.  Social Security also has no responsibility to contact a benefit recipient’s ex-spouse or children to tell them about available benefits.

Here is what I would suggest to a non-custodial parent who thinks that her ex-spouse has been awarded benefits:

1. write a letter to Social Security and identify yourself and your children as possible claimants for unpaid child support or alimony and ask that your letter serve as a claim against your ex-spouse’s account and/or for a claim of auxiliary benefits.   If you have your ex-spouse’s Social Security number and date of birth that would be very helpful.   You can find the address for the Social Security office where your ex-spouse lives by using the office locater tool on the SSA.gov site.  I generally send letters to Social Security using return receipt requested.

You may also want to follow up in person at your local Social Security office to check on the status of your inquiry.  Social Security is moving towards a paperless system and once your “claim” gets into the system any Social Security clerk should be able to access it.

2. write a letter to your state child support enforcement agency and provide them with as much information as you can and ask for assistance in recovering funds owed you

3. use the discovery power of the state court that issued the divorce order to ask your ex-spouse if he is receiving Social Security disability benefits.  If you get no response  you can “notice” your ex-spouse for a deposition.  Failure to abide by discovery can be punishable by fines or imprisonment.  If you cannot afford a private lawyer, legal aid may be able to help you.

4. contact your local member of Congress or United States Senator’s office.  Most elected officials have a staff person who handles Social Security issues.   Often a letter from your Senator can go a long way to breaking through the red tape.

Finally, let me say that I also receive emails from disabled dads who express a great deal of frustration when a child support recovery office seizes their entire lump sum and $250 of their $800 per month disability payment.   We’ll discuss this issue in my next post.


Jonathan Ginsberg practices Social Security disability law in Atlanta, Georgia.  He represents clients in claims before the Social Security Administration.


  1. Bonnie Houle says

    I want to thank you for making this information available. I am a single parent, and have not recieved child support in 15 years. I was told that my ex-husband just recieved a lump sum of 20.000 from social security, he only put two of his children on the form, he has that I know of 5 children. This makes me very angry, child support is not going after him for back support. I feel it is wrong for a man or woman to get any kind of of social security without paying first there children. If the shoe was on the other foot I would pay through the nose. If there is any other information you can give it would be vary helpfull, I live in TN.

  2. Juanita Ward says

    I have been getting child support through my local SS workers for the past13 yrs. My ex has found out that in N.C. if he just pays $1.00 he can get by without paying all of it. I just figured that when my boy’s are old enough they will go after their Dad for what he owes them. I have no other choice but to let this happen because N.C. really acts like they don’t care. I am disabled and SS told me that even if their dad was just ordered to pay and did, that meant that I can recieve ss for my kids. Can anyone give me an answer to this problem?

  3. Natalia Solleveld says

    I field for child support by opening a case threw ORS immediately after leaving my husband over 6 years ago! At the time my daughter was only 13 months old and i was new at the cat and mouse game of actually receiving child support from her father. The first year wa quite discouraging to find out that i did more work in tracking down his employers than the state did. It usually took them 3 weeks to a month to start employment garnishment and, by that time my ex would switch jobs or get employed under the table I frequently called ORS to get up dated o my case or to inquire if there was anything i could do? I might as well been laughed at. ORS explained that the judgment had to at least be over the amount of $10,000 and that he had to miss a payment over six months for his drivers licence to be suspended, a warrant out for his arrest, and the attorney general would finally take a look at my case! I got exited being so close to the amount but, when this statues where finally violated ORS was not there to help because he had made a $6.00 payment within six months! Even though his total back child support is well over $16,000 still un paid! He dose not file his taxes but dose make a few dollar payment every six months! It has just now been 7 months without a payment but, my ex has qualified for disability! Supposably Iam to be rewarded in one lump sum of everything he owes in back child support???? Is this true?? Is this total payment really coming to me?? It has almost been six months since he was approved and he has recently started getting large checks from disability made out to him! Am I next? Is it really gonna happen this time? In the state of Utah is their anything keeping me from receiving payments now? Do I have to separately file for these benefits ? Or will ORS garnish him and make payment to me??? Please help?

  4. I think all states should have the same laws when it comes to the absent parent paying child support .My ex runs to another state knowing if he is on public assistant they will not enforce his child support order .Its time for all the states to get on the same page. Plus it could help with welfare fraud .I also think child support needs to be paid in full no matter if the child turns 18 or graduated from high school .If the dept of revenue doesnt want to go after them we should be able to file a judment in civil court or lawsuit against the absent parent.The absent parent who does not pay there support should be charged with Neglect and thay can go on there public records so its noted they dont take of children.

  5. I need a sample letter to write to Social Security office to find out if ex-husband is getting social security. they need and must know that he owes his daughter/me $15,000 in back child support. thanks for reading and if someone can help me, please email me at

  6. crystal Allen says

    I am a single mother of two kids. I just found out their father is getting benefits now. Are my two kids elligible to draw from him even though my son is on Ssi for his disability

  7. Jennifer Smith says

    I did not know my exhusband was on SSD during the last 12 yrs, I found out he never put our daughter’s name down as one of his children application, so she would not receive any money through him. Can I sue him for fraud on his application, and breach of his fiduciary duties for the amount she would have received for all those years.?

  8. Vicky Mcvay says

    My name is Vicky Mcvay my ex husband started back his ssd,He owed 39,000 back pay in child support.Do the back pay go direct to D H R or to me.I havenot been on aid so it go to me.How long do it takes,I want to no do it go to the child support office.

  9. Mario Pignataro says

    @Jennifer Smith: I have the same situation. I found out my xwife said to get out of paying out, said she did not know were we lived. How do I pursue this claim.

  10. darlene hayes says

    is there a number in cleveland ohio i can call to see if x husband is receivin ssi benefits or somethin so i can get my back child support do to me.

  11. Donyia Allen says

    My Husband ad banded his family 1992,I know that he i sick and I need to know rather he’s receiving ssi,rather I.m entitle to a check.We have a 20 yr.old that he has never paid Child Support.

  12. Diane Kenna says

    My daughter filed for sole custody of her son and also filed for support. Her ex-boyfriend (there is no question of paternity, her son is a JR) receives workers comp and SSDI but told the support hearing that he only receives workers comp. She knows he gets funds for her son in his SSDI check. Support told her that she needs to contact SSA to confirm that he is receiving funds for her son, but SSA office only told her she would have to file a change of payee form and would not confirm that he was receiving funds for the minor child. She is receiving funds from workers comp even though custody has not been finalized. Her next support hearing is in two weeks. When they had the custody hearing he said he was getting SSDI, but they couldn’t agree on custody so now they have to go before a judge. He is incarcerated at this time for parole violations and we don’t think there should be any problem with my daughter getting sole custody. Can you give any suggestions what she should do at this point?

  13. Diane, ideally your daughter should retain a lawyer to assist with this. It is extremely important that the court order issued in this case be complete. Judges are busy and you may end up with an incomplete or ambiguous custody and support order. A little money spent now with a lawyer will save her thousands in the long run.

  14. Katherine Hutflies says

    Does this also translate into VA benefits? I have been getting a whopping $100/month in child support based on my ex husband’s original VA disability benefits of $235/month. I have struggled severely in the last year and a half, sometimes working 2 jobs and even selling electronics and furniture out of my home to cover child care expenses, while my ex now lives with his parents and refuses to work. He has been telling me the VA had not yet approved or denied his new claim for 100% disability, but then all of a sudden in the last week he has been making comments about buying a lot of new things for himself and traveling. Previously he would often call to tell me he couldn’t pick up our son for his weekend because he couldn’t afford gas (when we divorced he moved 2 hours away). He also chose this same time to tell me the VA outright denied his claim and that he will be getting a Veteran’s attorney to assist him. I just find it odd that he went from not having a single extra cent to help with anything to being able to go out and spend constantly at the same time his claim was supposedly denied. Is there some way for me to find out if his claim was approved without going back to court?

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