Divorce does not necessarily affect a person’s eligibility for federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – food stamps. Eligibility is primarily based on family income and family size, which can change after divorce, but the exact method of calculation varies by state. For example, some states count the value of an automobile while others do not.
Households must meet certain thresholds of income and resources to qualify for SNAP, and all of the income and resources within the same household are counted together. A household is generally defined as people living together who prepare meals together. Thus, when a husband and wife live together, SNAP counts both incomes, which may make it harder for some to qualify or result in less benefits. After a divorce, a former husband’s income, for example, is not counted, and this may increase the wife’s chance of eligibility.
SNAP considers alimony or child support unearned income, along with Social Security, pensions and unemployment benefits, but the state may add alimony and child support payments to earned income when determining eligibility. A state’s program allows deductions of certain payments such as dependent care expenses and child support. Paying child support lowers the monthly income for SNAP purposes and may increase the chances of eligibility.
In general a person cannot qualify for SNAP if he or she has a certain level of value of assets: $2,000 for most households or $3,250 if one person in the household is 60 or older or is disabled. SNAP excludes some resources, such as the value of a house, and each state has its own way of valuing other resources like vehicles. Divorce may reduce a person’s assets, so he or she may qualify for SNAP.