Can My Spouse Be Awarded My Disability Income in a Divorce?

A vindictive spouse may try to drain your finances in a divorce, but they cannot be directly awarded your Social Security disability benefits. These benefits are controlled by federal law and are not subject to negotiation or court arguments.

That said, your disability amount might be impacted by divorce – sometimes for the better. Unlike Social Security disability, retirement funds from a 401(k), deferred compensation plans, or pensions are subject to equitable distribution in a divorce.

Social Security Disability Insurance

If your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on your earning record, the benefit amount will not change after a divorce. Please note that a portion of SSDI benefits can be garnished to pay child support or spousal support.

The benefit amount will also stay the same if you are receiving SSDI based on your spouse’s work record if the marriage lasted longer than 10 years. Marriages of less than 10 years can mean you will no longer be eligible for the benefit. If you remarry, you will also lose eligibility for the benefit based on your ex’s work record.

Supplemental Security Income Benefits

The Social Security Administration bases Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on your income and other financial details. Your SSI benefits could increase if your household income decreases after divorce, or if you divided assets with your ex. On the flip side, the benefit amount could decrease if the alimony or child support you receive increases your overall income. SSI payments cannot be garnished for alimony or child support.

Some Disability Benefits Are Not Protected

Unlike federal Social Security disability benefits, state or private benefits may not be protected from equitable distribution. In divorce cases before a judge, benefits may be assumed marital property unless successfully argued to be separate property.

Social Security Disability’s Impact on Child Support, Spousal Maintenance

How child support and spousal maintenance are impacted depends on the type of Social Security benefit you receive.

The custodial parent's SSI benefit will not count as income when a judge determines the monthly child support amount. The same is true if the non-custodial parent receives the benefit. SSDI, however, will be counted as income in the New York child support formula.

The Social Security Administration considers alimony to be income. If you are awarded alimony, the SSI benefit could be reduced. Your SSI benefit will not count as income for determining alimony payments. Receiving alimony will not impact the SSDI benefit, but SSDI does count as income in spousal maintenance determinations.

Navigate Complicated Divorce Matters

Understanding what assets and benefits are subject to property division or impact child support orders or spousal support awards is complex. At Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C., we have comprehensive knowledge regarding equitable division, child support, and spousal maintenance. We also have the necessary skills to negotiate or argue in court for your best interests.

If you need an attorney for your divorce in Long Island or any of the five boroughs, contact us for a free consultation. Scheduling by contacting us online or calling (516) 406-8381.