SSDI Derivative Benefits for Exes, Spouses, Children

If you’re receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (or plan to apply) and are also weighing a divorce or in the midst of one, you should know there may be an impact if you are to receive spousal support. Marriage, too, can have an impact.SSDI divorce

No one gets married presuming they may get divorced, just as no one anticipates suffering an injury that will leave them unable to work. Yet 40 to 50 percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce, according to the American Psychological Association, and roughly 130 workers out of every 1,000 are injured on-the-job or become sick as the result of workplace conditions.

(Although workers’ compensation benefits require proof that an injury/illness occurred in the course and scope of employment, the same is not true of SSDI. As our Boston SSDI attorneys can explain, one needs to show they paid into the system for a period of time AND that their condition is disabling for a year or more or terminal.)

What’s more, research has shown the divorce rate climbs when one or both spouses is disabled, though some SSDI research indicates divorce may be a causal factor in long-term health consequences resulting in disability in men.

A worker who has racked up a sufficient number of Social Security credits and whose condition meets the qualifications of SSDI can collect benefits.

In order to qualify for benefits, one must meet the SSDI requirements including:

  • Being at least 18;
  • Not currently receiving benefits on Social Security record;
  • Unable to work due to medical condition expected either to last 12 months or result in death;
  • Not denied disability benefits in the last two months.

Considering how difficult SSDI benefits are to secure in the first place, one may wish to carefully consider the impact to these benefits as a result of major life decisions, such as marriage and divorce.

There are a number of ways your marital status or the terms of your divorce can impact eligibility for spousal SSDI benefits – or your own.

Derivative SSDI Benefits – Spouses, Exes, Children and Parents

When a person begins receiving SSDI benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA), certain members of the family may qualify for something called derivative benefits. These are benefits derived by way of a special relationship with you.

These individuals are:

  • Your husband/wife.
  • Your ex/divorced spouse.
  • Your children.
  • Your disabled child.
  • An adult child disabled prior to turning 22-years-old.

Those individuals will be asked to supply their birth certificates and possibly proof of marriage and/or prior marriages if that information is relevant.

Maximum Derivative Benefits of an Ex-Spouse

Every family member or ex-spouse who qualifies under SSA’s terms for SSDI may be entitled to up to 50 percent of one’s disability amount. However, the government caps the total amount to which any one family is entitled. The cap depends on how many members of a family also qualify for benefits based on their relationship to the main recipient.

Although the actual amount fluctuates year-to-year, it’s generally somewhere around 150 to 180 percent of the underlying disability benefit.

So for example, let’s say your ex-spouse qualifies for derivative benefits. You receive $1200 in benefits. Fifty percent of that would be $600 and the total cap would be somewhere around $1,800 to $2,160. If it’s just your ex receiving those benefits, they’d likely get the full 50 percent in that scenario. However, if you had another dependent also entitled to 50 percent, they could not also receive $600 because there would only be $360 remaining. In that case, each recipient’s derivative benefits would be decreased proportionately. Instead of each getting 50 percent/$600 or one getting 50 percent and the other 30 percent/$360, each would likely get $480/month, or 40 percent.

The disabled recipient’s benefits (in that case, $1,200) wouldn’t be impacted in either situation.

So if you have an ex-spouse entitled to receive benefits, it won’t impact the amount you receive – even if you are now remarried.

Your ex-spouse’s SSDI derivative benefit could be impacted if he/she also receives a pension on work not covered by SS (i.e., government or foreign work). To qualify, an ex-spouse would need to have:

  • Been married to you at least the last 10 years.
  • Be at least 62.
  • Be unmarried.
  • Ineligible for equal/higher benefit on his/her own Social Security record or someone else’s.

If the primary benefit recipient is deceased, the amount an ex-spouse can get will vary, depending on how old they are and whether the spouse is taking care of decedent’s children.

Impact of Alimony, Child Support on Derivative Benefits

If a parent suffers from a disability and begins receiving SSDI benefits, minor children and ex-spouses can be entitled to derivative benefits of that. An estimated 4.2 million kids have a disabled, retired or deceased parent and receive derivative benefits totaling some $2.6 billion monthly.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Benefits Planner: Family Benefits, SSA

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