If you've recently divorced your spouse after suffering through years of freeloading behavior, you may be mortified (but not really surprised) to discover your spouse is committing benefits fraud. This fraud can take a number of forms -- from forging medical paperwork to secure federal disability benefits to lying about income or assets to qualify for food stamps. What, if anything, should you do upon learning of your ex's fraudulent ways? Can this serve as grounds to change your custody or support agreement? Read on to learn more about how alleging benefits fraud could impact your case.
What should you do upon discovering your ex is committing benefits fraud?
Each federal agency that provides cash assistance to citizens (like the Social Security Administration (SSA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), or Department of Housing and Urban Development) has a dedicated group of employees tasked with identifying and rooting out fraud. By making an anonymous report to the overseeing authority, you'll be able to ensure that a file is opened on your ex-spouse and any allegations of fraud are thoroughly investigated.
Many public funds are also administered by various state agencies. While it's less likely these agencies have their own fraud divisions, most states do have ways to report fraud to be investigated by the state's Attorney General or other enforcement entity.
Will reporting benefits fraud to the divorce court impact your case?
Even after reporting this benefits fraud to the appropriate regulatory agency, you may be tempted to use this information as leverage against your ex-spouse to secure more child support or a more favorable custody agreement. Unfortunately, unless this fraud is serious or blatant enough to call into question your ex's mental state, it's unlikely to have any impact on a pre-existing custody arrangement.
However, your ex's benefit fraud may have gone hand-in-hand with hiding income or assets from the divorce court -- and this could potentially impact your child support agreement. If your ex was able to commit fraud by taking payments in cash from his or her employer and avoiding taxes on this amount, it's possible the amount of child support he or she was ordered to pay was inadequate. If the divorce court determines that your ex-spouse has been hiding money in an attempt to qualify for government benefits, your ex may be ordered to pay any extra child support owed dating back to when the fraud first began.
For more information, contact a family lawyer, like those at the Law office of Kristine A. Michael, P.C.