Collecting Unemployment After Relocating: Trailing Spouse Provision

Unemployment law and unemployment benefits can differ greatly from state to state. Many states have what is known as a “trailing spouse” provision contained in their unemployment laws. This provision allows a person who has had to quit their job in order to relocate with their spouse to collect unemployment benefits. This is in the interest of keeping the family together. Relocation can be within the state or to another state. Relocation within the same state would probably be subject to mileage or distance or time constraints in order for a person to be able to apply for the benefits. No one would expect you to commute an unreasonable distance in order to keep your job. Relocation within the same state, where the trailing spouse provision already exists, and is hopefully understood by state-wide employment clerks, is not where problems collecting unemployment benefits occur under this provision. It is important to remember that the law that applies to your potential claim is the law from the state in which you were employed.

Confusion and frustration may occur more often when you move from a state that has a trailing spouse provision in the law to a state that does not have such a law in place. You will be filing for benefits at the local unemployment office in the new state, and there you may run into a clerk who is unfamiliar with the law in the state you just came from, and how it applies to you. Being persistent is what matters. Eventually it will be ironed out. What can be even more frustrating is if you move from a state that does not allow you to collect benefits to a state that does allow you to collect benefits based upon the same exact situation. Unfortunately, in this case you cannot collect unemployment benefits.

There has been a push to create a Uniform Code for unemployment benefits and incentives for states to pass laws that will create a Uniform Code. Known as the Unemployment Modernization Act, which is a key component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Obama, there are model provisions that states can use to help write their laws. The number of states that have the trailing spouse provision has been increasing since President Obama signed the Act. It is important here to note that some states without a trailing spouse provision have enacted a variation on the provision to allow a spouse to collect unemployment if they are a trailing military spouse. However, until a uniform provision is written for every state, the laws will vary depending upon in which state you are applying for benefits. Check with your state Department of Labor to be sure.