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About Family Benefits

Benefits For Family Benefits

If you’re receiving retirement benefits, some members of your family also can receive benefits. Those who can include:

  • your wife or husband age 62 or older;
  • your wife or husband under age 62, if she or he is taking care of your child who is under age 16 or disabled;
  • your former wife or husband age 62 or older (see "Benefits For A Divorced Spouse");
  • children up to age 18;
  • children age 18-19; if they are full-time students through grade 12; and
  • children over age 18, if they are disabled.

Spouse’s Benefits

A spouse receives one-half of the retired worker’s full benefit unless the spouse begins collecting benefits before reaching full retirement age. In that case, the amount of the spouse’s benefit is permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months before she or he reaches 65. For example, if your spouse begins collecting benefits at 64, the benefit amount would be about 46 percent of your full benefit. At age 63, it would be about 42 percent and 37.5 percent at age 62. However, if your spouse is taking care of a child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits, your spouse gets full benefits, regardless of age.

If you’re eligible for both your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse, we always pay your own benefit first. If your benefit as a spouse is higher than your retirement benefit, you’ll get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit.

Here’s an example:

Mary Ann qualifies for a retirement benefit of $250 and a wife’s benefit of $400. At age 65, she will receive her own $250 retirement benefit and we will add $150 from her wife’s benefit, for a total of $400. If she takes her retirement benefit at any time before she turns 65, both amounts will be reduced.

Maximum Family Benefits

If you have children eligible for Social Security, each will receive up to one-half of your full benefit. But there is a limit to the amount of money that can be paid to a family. If the total benefits due your spouse and children exceed this limit, their benefits will be reduced proportionately. Your benefit will not be affected.

Benefits For A Divorced Spouse

A divorced spouse can get benefits on a former husband’s or wife’s Social Security record if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. The divorced spouse must be 62 or older and unmarried. If the spouse has been divorced at least two years, he or she can get benefits, even if the worker is not retired. However, the worker must have enough credits to qualify for benefits and be age 62 or older. The amount of benefits a divorced spouse gets has no effect on the amount of benefits a current spouse can get.

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