Trailing spouses are people who follow a wife or husband to a new home due to a change in the wife or husband's place of employment. In some cases, trailing spouses qualify for unemployment benefits at their new homes. Military spouses are most likely to qualify for trailing spouse unemployment benefits, but some states also cover civilian trailing spouses who would otherwise qualify for benefits.
States Offering Benefits for All Trailing Spouses
As of June 2011, the following states and territories offer benefits for all trailing spouses: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, the Virgin Islands and Wisconsin. North Carolina offers coverage for trailing spouses after a waiting period.
States Offering Benefits to Military Spouses Only
In addition to the states listed above, military spouses are covered by special legislation in several other states. As of June 2011, states offering benefits to trailing military spouses only include: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. Maryland unemployment statutes also cover military contractor trailing spouses.
Virginia and Washington statutes specify that only military spouses shall be covered; civilian trailing spouses are legally barred from receiving unemployment benefits
Utah statutes categorically exclude unemployment benefits for all trailing spouses. Missouri and West Virginia laws do not currently require unemployment benefits for trailing spouses, but legislation pending as of June 2011 will likely cover military trailing spouses in the future.
All states not listed above do not legislatively address the trailing-spouse unemployment issue, though in rare cases they may award unemployment compensation to a trailing spouse. However, these states may soon pass laws that cover all trailing spouses or specifically military trailing spouses. If the state to which you are moving is not listed above, call the unemployment office before moving to find out what the pertinent laws will be.
Even if your new home state offers trailing-spouse unemployment benefits, you may not qualify for them if you do not meet other rules. To protect yourself and ensure your future benefits, you should try to give your current employer at least 30 days' notice before leaving your job. If you are forced to move on shorter notice, document this as well as you can to support your unemployment claim in your new state. If you are a military spouse, make sure you have a copy of your spouse's DD-214 transfer paperwork to take to the unemployment office with you. File for unemployment benefits in your new state as soon as possible to ensure you miss no deadlines.