The Complicated Relationship Between Alimony and Disability


  • In 2017, 8,695,475 disabled workers were receiving payments.
  • The number was reduced to 8,596,559 in August 2018.
  • There are four categories of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent.

Most people don’t make the decision to divorce without much contemplation. Ending a marriage is rarely an easy thing to do, even when animosity is involved. Some people hesitate to file for divorce because they feel a sense of failure. Other people stay in a marriage because they are worried about finances.

As Orlando family law attorneys, we know that people worry about how they will live post-divorce. This is especially true when one spouse earns significantly more than the other, or the person who wants the divorce hasn’t brought any income into the marriage. These situations are what alimony is for.

In most cases of divorce, the higher wage earner will be ordered by a judge to make alimony payments for a certain period of time. The payments may be made monthly or in a lump some. Each case is unique and no one should expect their alimony order to look like another.

One of the things that people in certain situations are most concerned about is disability. If one spouse receives disability payments bring in the majority of the couple’s income, what happens to alimony? The truth of the matter is that if disability payments are coming in, they are subject to alimony the majority of the time. Here are the basics.

Social Security Disability Payment (SSDI) and Divorce

Let’s say that you’re the spouse receiving SSDI. In this case, your divorce will not affect your ability to receive payments. They may, however, be garnished in order to keep up with alimony payments.

If you’re the person seeking alimony, you may be eligible to receive it, even though your spouse gets SSDI payments. You do have to meet certain qualifications:

  • The marriage lasted for at least ten years.
  • You are 62 years of age or older.
  • You have not chosen to marry again.
  • You cannot get Social Security payments that are larger than possible alimony.

What Happens After Death?

People may be concerned that they will be cut off from alimony payments if their ex-spouse passes away and is no longer receiving disability benefits. In a traditional set up, the surviving spouse would continue to receive retirement benefits or, in some cases, insurance benefits. SSDI is really no different.

If you meet the following qualifications, you may continue to receive payments:

  • Married for ten years or more;
  • 50 years of age or older and disabled or 60 years old or greater;
  • Not remarried; and
  • Not eligible for Social Security payments larger than your alimony.

When You Are the Spouse Receiving Disability

What happens during a divorce when you are receiving disability payments? Some people choose to not seek alimony for fear that it will reduce the payments they are receiving from the government. In most cases, this doesn’t happen. You do need to report any money streams that you have coming into your home, but not all will affect or be affected by alimony. Each case is unique, and an attorney can make things clearer for you.

What disability does is affect the amount of alimony you may receive. You will need to report your disability payments to the court during the process of your divorce. This allows the judge to calculate a reasonable amount of alimony. It also allows the judge to determine the length of time you will receive payments from your ex.

If, on the other hand, you are receiving Supplemental Security Income, those payments will be reduced if you begin to receive alimony. SSI is provided when people have a limited work history or when their SSDI payment is low. Because alimony is unearned income, it is reported as income and will affect the amount you may receive in SSI.

When people are injured on the job, they may be awarded workers’ compensation benefits. Your benefits are calculated based on your income prior to your injury. If you begin to receive alimony payments and are currently receiving workers’ compensation, your benefit payments will not be affected.

It is always recommended that a person seeking a divorce does so with the assistance of an experienced legal advocate. This is imperative if you’re receiving any type of disability payments. It is also incredibly important if your spouse is receiving payments.

Alimony, in many cases, will not affect benefits, but it can. If you don’t understand how accepting alimony will affect you, you could end up in a worse position. Likewise, you need to know how your spouse’s disability will impact your ability to receive alimony.

Our Orlando Family Law Attorneys are Here to Assist You

If you are considering ending your marriage in Florida, and you have questions about disability and alimony, should consider talking to our Orlando family law attorneys. We understand the situation you are in and will take the time to explain all of your options to you.

Don’t feel as though you are alone, and don’t try to negotiate with your spouse. We know what you are entitled to and we are willing to fight for it. Call our office today to schedule your free case evaluation and let us help you. It’s what we are here for and we are ready to focus our efforts on your case.

About the Author
Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew and his partner, Ophelia Bernal-Mora, Esq., B.C.S., joined forces in March 2016 to form the unique and boutique husband and wife family law team at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. Together, Andrew and Ophelia take a practical and team-based approach to all of their cases and clients to deliver the highest quality experience and representation.
Andrew Nickolaou

Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew also handles record expungements and sealings. If you have questions about this article, contact Andrew today by clicking here.