Social Security Benefits for Family Members
Depending on your specific circumstances, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits as a spouse, child or a divorced spouse. Here is what you should know.
Who is Eligible?
Eligibility requirements for social security benefits vary based on the beneficiary's classification. A spouse beneficiary may be eligible if they are 62 years of age and receive retirement or disability benefits. Children who have parents that receive Social Security retirement, disability benefits, or have passed away may be eligible for Social Security benefits if the children are unmarried, under 18 years of age, between the ages 18 to 19 and a full-time student or if they are 18 years and older and are disabled from a disability that occurred before age 22. Eligible children include biological, adopted and stepchildren. A divorced spouse can collect Social Security retirement benefits based on their ex-spouse's earnings record if they are at least 62 years of age, were married to the ex-spouse for at least 10 years, are not remarried, are not eligible for a higher benefit based on their own earnings record and qualify for Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
For a current spouse, the amount will be determined based on the starting age of receiving benefits. For individuals between the ages 62 through full retirement age, the amount of benefits will be permanently reduced by 25/36 of 1% for each month before the full retirement age, up to 36 months of reduction. At full retirement age, the benefit cannot exceed one-half of the full retirement amount of the spouse.
Benefits paid to eligible children do not decrease the retirement benefit. The amount may be up to half of the parent's full retirement or disability benefit amount. The benefits will end when the child reaches age 18 unless there is an eligible disability. If the child is a full-time student, benefits will continue until the child graduates or two months after the child reaches age 19, whichever occurs first.
A divorced spouse can receive up to 50% of their former spouse's full Social Security benefit. The amount is less if they take benefits before their full retirement age, which is age 66 for people born in 1943-1954 and age 67 for people born in 1960 or later. To determine your full retirement age and approximate reduction for early retirement, see the Social Security retirement chart located on SSA.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/agereduction.html.
Please note that if you qualify for benefits based on your own work history, you will receive the larger of the two benefits. You cannot receive benefits based on both you and your ex-spouse's earning records.
You can learn more about your Social Security benefits by creating an account on the Social Security website and requesting a Social Security Statement. Visit SSA.gov/myaccount to create an account.
To apply for benefits, additional information may be required to apply as a spouse or ex-spouse. Visit SSA.gov/forms/ssa-2.html for more information.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.