Supplemental Security income (SSI) is a program that is based on the needs of the aged, blind or disabled. It is governed by Title XVI of the Social Security Act. It is available to children or adults with limited income and resources. It can be the person’s only form of income, or it can supplement other income, such as wages or Social Security benefits. Alimony affects the SSI benefit check in that alimony is considered income. If the SSI benefit is for a child, child support also affects the amount of the SSI check.
SSI, Alimony, Child Support and Children Recipients
Family law orders affect SSI to the extent that they may be considered income for the minor children. If a child receives SSI and then the parents divorce or separate, child support is usually ordered. Since child support is wholly for the benefit of the child receiving SSI, his SSI benefits decrease. SSI is determined by the federal benefit rate chart. The chart takes into consideration the portion of a parent’s income available to the child. Though alimony is for spousal support only, it allows other income from the parent to be used for the child, which then adjusts the SSI benefit available to the child.
SSI and Alimony for Adult Recipients
If you are an adult and receive SSI payments, and are awarded alimony, your SSI benefits check will decrease, depending on the amount of alimony you will be receiving. SSI is for those who need income assistance, and the bar is very low — $20 — according to NLS.org. In other words, if your SSI check is $637 and you receive an alimony payment of $657, the government will disregard the first $20 of the alimony payment. The rest of the alimony, dollar for dollar, cancels out the SSI benefit — you subtract countable income from the SSI base rate.
Getting Alimony Without Affecting SSI
When working out a settlement for your divorce, you can ask your spouse to pay certain bills instead of paying alimony directly to you. According to National Assistive Technology Advocacy Project Neighborhood Legal Services Inc., the SSI program defines income as “anything received in cash or in kind that can be used to meet needs for food and shelter.” Since a vehicle payment does not count as food or shelter, your spouse could agree to pay vehicle-related expenses such as the vehicle payment and insurance payments in lieu of alimony, which would allow you to keep your full SSI benefits.
If you receive SSI benefits for either yourself or your child, consult an attorney well-versed in SSI rules to discuss child support and alimony awards, and recourses of an alimony or child support award. The attorney may be able to advise you of different ways to accept alimony payments, though, depending on your state, child support payments may be more difficult to set off.