This article addresses whether there are strategic financial reasons for
divorce in Harris and Montgomery County in Texas to take advantage of governmental benefits.
Today I got a call from a man whose first question was “would it
be financially beneficial for me to get a
divorce?” This question took me a little by surprise. My first thought was
“No! Getting a
divorce will probably hurt your pocket book a lot.”
After my initial gut reaction, I started ask my caller some questions
to get some background on his situation to see if there was anything legally
I could do to help him. As I understood his situation his wife had some
serious health problems and they were both on fixed incomes. The caller
was interested in finding out if he got a
divorce "on paper" whether his wife might be able to qualify for more governmental programs
without his added income.
I let my caller know I was not sure. I then started to do a little preliminary
research while he was on the phone. A few cursory searches and some additional
questions to my caller about his wife and his income I was able to see
that it might be beneficial. I let him know what I had found out but I
would like to do some more research before I gave him an answer and would
call him back.
This was not the first time I encountered a husband wanting to
get a divorce from his wife because he loved her and wanted to protect her financially.
I remember a professor I had while I was still pursuing my bachelor’s
degree had mentioned doing something similar. With that in mind I began
Texas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
While my caller was still on the phone I first started looking at food
stamps. The first one I looked at was Texas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP) which is a program to help buy nutritious food.
Below are the household income limits based on household size for this program.
Looking at the above table I noticed that a household with only 1 person
in it could qualify even if they made $15,301. However a household with
2 people was only allowed to make an additional $5,408.
It appears that if my caller and his wife did not qualify for this program
based on their combined income then
getting a divorce might make a difference for his wife if it would bring her income below
the requirement for a household with 1 person in it.
Section 8 Housing
This information was not as easy to find. Reading the HUD website I learned
that in order to be eligible to receive a housing voucher “in general,
the family's income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the
county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law,
a PHA must provide 75 percent of its voucher to applicants whose incomes
do not exceed 30 percent of the area median income. Median income levels
are published by HUD and vary by location.”
I having found out that I then began to try and track down what that meant
for Harris and Montgomery County, Texas.
Based on this information I was able to conclude yes
getting a divorce might make a difference in getting governmental assistance for Section
8 housing vouchers.
However, both Harris and Montgomery County’s websites warned that
“applications are only available when the voucher program waiting
list is open! Please be aware that MCHA is only able to assist families
depending upon available federal funding.”
I also saw on the
Houston Chronicle website that about 17,000 people apply each year in Harris County but there are
only about 2000 vouchers available.
My Caller also specifically asked about social security and whether his
wife would be able to get more social security if she was
divorced. Not having had this issue come up before I continued to research.
My research revealed that there may be an advantage that
divorced couples enjoy over married couples. Both
divorced spouses can collect a full spousal benefit once they reach full retirement age
while letting their own retirement benefit continue to grow through age
70. Married folks can only do this for one of the two spouses.
My cursory research revealed that it is not a given that two spousal benefits
are better than one. Much like other questions regarding social security
the answer depended on when you were born and when you would be retiring.
Fortunately Economist Laurence Kotlikoff, has created a program located
at MaximizeMySocialSecurity.com, which allows couples on his site to run
the numbers as married and
divorced so they can judge for themselves what the best strategy might be.
There might be possible tax reasons for
getting a divorce. One article I read was about a couple who considered a
divorce to avoid
Alternative Minimum Taxes. The United States tax code puts many people in a higher tax bracket once
they tie the knot. I am not a tax professional and would suggest that
anyone considering this for CPA first.
This is an interesting an interesting topic and one I probably will revisit.
It is pretty oxymoronic, that laws concerning taxes and various benefits
are so different between married and single people that it might possibly
be beneficial to get a
However, some additional things to consider is that the divorce could mean
some additional costs such two households to support in other words 2
rents, 2 electric bills, 2 gas bills, furniture etc. I discuss these considerations
in another article I wrote “Should I move out of the marital home during a divorce?” In that article I talk about how “the income that once supported
one household stretch to take care of two. This can be a difficult thing
to do. For this reason some couples continue living together in the family
home because they cannot otherwise afford to support a second household.”
My gut reaction is that getting a
divorce is not a magic bullet and maybe more trouble then any financial benefit
it would provide. However, I also believe this is a very fact intensive
problem that would have to be decided for each case scenario.
If you want to know more about what you can do,
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring Divorce Lawyers
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