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Can I get support if I divorce my retired husband who has left the country. He gets a pension and social security

Worcester, MA |

I'm still working but don't make enough to support myself and he isn't giving me any support

Attorney Answers 3


  1. You need to see a local divorce attorney concerning this matter. The reason you do not want to handle this on your own is that in order to access the pension and any employment-related retirement accounts, you need what is known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This is a document which needs to comply with federal tax law -- not something you can write up on your own. (You may be able to get the court to order your husband to pay part or all of your attorney's fees and costs.)

    You don't mention how long you have been married, however, divorced spouses who meet requirements for age and length of marriage are eligible for an enhanced Social Security payment if the other spouse had a higher income. See the link below for more details.


  2. Unfortunately, the answer is "it depends." The fact that your husband is retired does not prohibit you from getting support if there are other factors in favor of a support order. In Massachusetts, spousal support is based on numerous factors (under M.G.L. Chapter 208 Section 34) including length of the marriage, age of the parties, health of the parties, employability of the parties, etc. A court would evaluate your need based on these factors and his ability to pay based on these factors in deciding whether or not to award alimony.

    You may also have a right to have a portion of his pension paid directly to you, but that depends on the same factors. The transfer of a pension is accomplished by QDRO (qualified domestic relations order) in order to avoid tax implications of a transfer, but QDRO's are only done after the transfer is ordered. An Order to transfer a pension would be governed by the same factors contained in M.G.L. chapter 208 section 34.

    The fact that your Husband is outside of the country should not make a significant difference in your rights for support (though it may complicate service, settlement negotiations and collection).

    Finally, regarding Social Security payments, you may also qualify for social security payments based on your husband's work history if you were married for more than 10 years. Receiving these payments, though, is in leiu of any social security you might be entitled to, so this may not help you if your benefits would be better anyway.


  3. You may be able to. You need to consult with a qualified divorce lawyer. There are several factors, which the Court needs to consider in awarding alimony and property division. The fact that he is out of the country or retired will not in and of themselves prohibit you from obtaining support.

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