SSR 69-4: Section 202(e)(1)(D)(i).—Widow's Insurance Benefits—Surviving Divorced Wife—Divorce Decree Awarding Lump-Sum Alimony Payable in Installments
20 CFR 404.1105
Where, under the court order for alimony, the worker's wife was awarded a fixed sum, payable in installments, and the period over which the payments should have been paid expired before the death of the worker, held, at the time of the worker's death there was no court order for support in effect within the meaning of section 202(e)(1)(D)(i) of the Social Security Act, despite the fact that at the time of the worker's death, he had failed to complete the payments and the unpaid amount was collectible.
R and W were married in 1919 and were divorced in 1945 in the State of Kansas. In the divorce action, the court entered a judgment against R for $2,400 permanent alimony, payable $12.50 each week beginning September 22, 1945, and continuing until the full sum was paid. By dividing into the total payment the amount of each installment, it is readily determined that the support period ended in May 1949. R died in February 1955, at which time $500 of his payments to W had not been paid. In April 1966 W filed application for widow's insurance benefits as the surviving divorced wife of R.
Section 216(d)(2) of the Act, as amended, provides that:
The term "surviving divorced wife" means a woman divorced from an individual who has died, but only if she had been married to the individual for a period of 20 years immediately before the date the divorce became effective.
Section 202(e)(1) of the Social Security Act, as amended, provides among other requirements, that widow's insurance benefits may be payable to a surviving divorced wife if:
(D) * * * there was in effect a court order for substantial contributions to her support from [the worker]...
(i) at the time of his death . . . or
(ii) at the time he became entitled to old-age insurance benefits or disability insurance benefits . . .
Since the marriage had existed for more than 20 years before the divorce, W satisfies the definition in section 216(d)(2), supra. The question presented in this case is whether W, having met all other requirements for widow's insurance benefits, can satisfy the support requirement of section 202(e)(1)(D) of the Act.
For a court order to come within the meaning of section 202(e)(1)(D) of the Act, the order must (1) be in effect at the time of the worker's death or entitlement and (2) require the worker to make substantial contributions to his divorced wife's support for that time. Where a court has ordered a specified amount of alimony to be paid in installments and the duration of the period for which the installments are payable is not stated in the order, the period can be determined by dividing the amount of the installments into the specified gross amount. If such time has expired at either the death or entitlement of the individual, whichever is applicable, a "court order for support" within the meaning of section 202(e)(1)(D) of the Act does not exist even though, at the applicable time, not all payments had been made and the unpaid balance was collectible.
Accordingly, it is held that at the time of R's death there was not in effect a court order requiring him to contribute to W's support; therefore, W is not entitled to widow's insurance benefits.