Q. My husband who is on disability suffered a mental breakdown and abandoned us! We have three children and each only receive $292.00 a month. Add to this, he owes an overpayment back to Social Security {$10,000 plus}. If we divorce, and I have full custody of them, will the children get a higher benefit to help me care for them?  Can we ask for a hardship to reduce the overpayment?  If yes, how can I get help, since each child is having money withheld too?   

A. The Social Security Administration can approve a waiver of repayment of an overpayment if the beneficiary of the overpayment is totally without responsibility for the overpayment. That can be a difficult challenge to overcome, but if the “without fault” criterion is met, a waiver can be granted if repaying the overpayment would leave beneficiaries without resources for basic needs or if requiring repayment would be against equity and good conscience.

In the event of divorce, your children would remain entitled to the same benefits they currently receiving, less any required repayment. The same is true of your husband’s benefit unless a court awards you a portion of his benefit. In that case, if your husband did not voluntarily comply with the court order you could seek a second court order garnisheeing a portion of his benefit. That is a matter to discuss with your own legal counsel.