November 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 site.  I generally send letters to Social Security using return receipt requested. [Read more…]

How Do I Find Out if my Ex-Spouse has Filed for Social Security Disability?

Your ex has not paid child support and says that he is disabled.  Has he filed for Social Security disability?  This is the dilemma faced by June, who wrote me the following:

my ex is over 5k in arrears. He just sent the friend of the court a letter from the doctor stating he cannot work. How do i find out if he has filed for disability? I have no contact with him, he keeps disappearing. Do i file for my child and wait and see if my ex has filed, or is there a way to find out if he is receiving anything or has even filed for benefits? i am lost in this whole thing.

Jonathan’s response: I am assuming that there is an order from a State court ordering your ex to pay child support.  As a party to that litigation you may be able to serve post-judgment discovery on him and simply ask.   A lawyer representing you in the State court support action can assist you with this.

confusedwomanSocial Security may not be much help as privacy rules will most likely prevent them from revealing anything about your ex’s case, even though your child may be eligible for auxiliary benefits (that will be in addition to whatever your ex receives himself).

You may also want to check with the child support enforcement office in the jurisdiction where the support order was issued (if you have moved, you can most likely get the file transferred to where you live now.

In most jurisdictions, the obligation to pay child support remains active and enforceable until it is modified.   One question I would ask your own lawyer – does this letter from your ex’s doctor make any difference in his obligation to pay?