July 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. [Read more…]