Can My Ex-Wife Collect Social Security and Alimony?

The Social Security Administration—SSA—oversees income programs that supplement eligible recipients. Your ex-wife may be eligible to collect Social Security benefits and alimony, depending on the length of the marriage and her age. Alimony can significantly impact the monthly Social Security benefits your wife receives. In some cases, it could eliminate the Social Security payment altogether.

Supplemental Security Income

If your ex-wife receives Supplemental Security Income—SSI—and also receives alimony, her SSI benefits are lower than if she did not receive alimony. The SSA defines alimony as unearned income. In determining the monthly SSI benefit, unearned income is considered countable income and is deducted from the monthly benefit amount. For example, if your ex-wife's monthly SSI benefit is $700 and you pay her $300 in alimony, her monthly benefit will be reduced by $300.

Social Security Retirement Benefits

Your ex-wife can receive Social Security retirement benefits based on your payment record if you were married for at least 10 years. Collecting alimony will offset the Social Security benefits, but she is still eligible to file on your record as long as she is not remarried and is at least 62 years old. The other stipulation is that she must receive more money based on your record than on her own. Having your ex-wife file for Social Security retirement benefits based on your record does not reduce the amount that you are eligible to receive. If you remarry, your ex-wife can file for retirement benefits on your record.

Social Security Disability Benefits

Your ex-wife may receive Social Security Disability Income—SSDI—based on your condition, even if you are paying alimony. As with other Social Security benefits, alimony is considered unearned income and will reduce the overall amount of benefits she receives. In order for your ex-wife to receive SSDI based on your disability, she must be over the age of 62 and you must have been married for at least 10 years. The amount of SSDI your ex-wife receives does not impact the maximum family benefit that you and your family receive from SSDI.

Unearned Income

The SSA factors all income sources in determining the amount of benefits a person receives. If the amount of alimony your ex-wife receives is more than the SSDI or SSI benefits, she may not be able to collect Social Security payments. If alimony becomes an issue after your wife is already receiving SSI or SSDI benefits, the monthly benefit amount can impact the alimony award.

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