Social Security Professor
by on October 6, 2021  in Social Security /
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If you’re getting Social Security retirement benefits, some members of your family may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. If they qualify, your ex-spouse, spouse, or child may receive a monthly payment of up to one-half of your retirement benefit amount. These Social Security payments to family members will not decrease the amount of your retirement benefit.

Maximum Family Benefits

There is a limit to the amount we can pay your family. The total varies, depending on your benefit amount and the number of qualifying family members on your record. Generally, the total amount you and your family can receive is about 150 to 180 percent of your full retirement benefit.

If you have a divorced spouse who qualifies for benefits, it will not affect the amount of benefits you or your family may receive.

Benefits For Your Spouse

Even if they have never worked under Social Security, your spouse may be eligible for benefits if they are at least 62 years of age and you are receiving retirement or disability benefits. Your spouse can also qualify for Medicare at age 65.

How Much Will My Spouse Receive?

If your spouse qualifies for benefits on their own record, we will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.

The benefits for your spouse do not include any delayed retirement credits you may receive.

If they begin receiving benefits:

If your spouse was born before January 2, 1954, and has already reached full retirement age, they can choose to receive only the spouse's benefit and delay receiving their own retirement benefit until a later date. If your spouse is full retirement age and applying for spouse’s benefits only, they can apply online by using the retirement application.

If your spouse’s birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists. If your spouse files for one benefit, they will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits.

If your spouse will receive a pension for work not covered by Social Security such as government employment, the amount of their Social Security benefits on your record may be reduced.

Your spouse can also receive spouse's benefits at any age if they are caring for your child under age 16 or who became disabled before age 22, and is entitled to benefits.

Benefits paid to your spouse will not decrease your retirement benefit. In fact, the value of the benefits they may receive, added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.

Benefits For Your Children

When you qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, your children may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. Your eligible child can be your biological child, adopted child, or stepchild. A dependent grandchild may also qualify.

To receive benefits, the child must:

Benefits stop when children reach age 18 unless they are disabled. However, if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child becomes age 19, whichever is first.

Benefits paid for your child will not decrease your retirement benefit. In fact, the value of the benefits they may receive, added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.

If Your Child Works

If a child on your record works while receiving benefits, the same earnings limits apply to them as apply to you.

If your child is eligible for benefits this year and is also working, you can use our Retirement Earnings Test Calculator to see how those earnings would affect the child's benefit payments.

Your child's earnings affect only their own benefits. They do not affect your benefits or those of any other beneficiaries on your record.

Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse

If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried) if:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
  • Your ex-spouse is unmarried.
  • Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older.
  • The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on their own work is less than the benefit they would receive based on your work.
  • You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

How Much Will Your Divorced Spouse Receive

If you have not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, your ex-spouse can receive benefits on your record if you have been divorced for at least two continuous years.

If your ex-spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on their own record, we will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.

If your ex-spouse was born before January 2, 1954, and has already reached full retirement age, they can choose to receive only the divorced spouse’s benefit and delay receiving their own retirement benefit until a later date.

If your ex-spouse’s birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists. If your ex-spouse files for one benefit, they will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits.

If Your Ex-Spouse Works

If your ex-spouse continues to work while receiving benefits, the same earnings limits apply to them as apply to you. If your ex-spouse is eligible for benefits this year and is also working, you can use our retirement earnings test calculator to see how those earnings would affect those benefit payments.

If your ex-spouse will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government work, their Social Security benefit on your record may be affected.

The amount of benefits your divorced spouse gets has no effect on the amount of benefits you or your current spouse may receive.

If You Remarry

If you remarry, your ex-spouse will still be eligible for benefits if they meet the requirements.

If your former spouse is deceased and you need information about possible survivors benefits, please read, Surviving Divorced Spouse.

How Do You Apply?

You can apply online by using our Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application to apply for retirement, spouse's, divorced spouse's or Medicare benefits.

If you and your spouse apply online for retirement benefits at the same time, or if your spouse applies online after you start receiving benefits, we will check their eligibility for benefits as a spouse. If they are qualified, the online application will automatically include a request for spousal benefits on your record.

If your spouse applies for benefits, they need to be ready to supply the information we need to approve their application for these benefits:

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Social Security Professor
Social Security Professor is the WealthCare Connect virtual instructor that provides members with educational Social Security content. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute advice. Consult with a licensed professional before making any wealthcare decisions.
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