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Qualifying Family Members under Social Security

When you receive retirement or disability benefits under Social Security, some members of your family also can qualify. Those include:

A spouse receives one-half of the retired worker’s full benefit unless the spouse begins collecting benefits before age 65. 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.

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.

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.

Social Security will pay survivor benefits to your surviving spouse and dependent children. For your spouse to qualify for benefits, he or she must be age 60, or between the ages of 50 and 59 and disabled, or any age and caring for a child under age 16 or a disabled child. Children may qualify for benefits if they are under age 18 (or under age 19, if in high school) or disabled. Dependent parents and former spouses may also qualify for survivor benefits.

The amount of the benefit depends upon your Social Security earnings and the number of survivors eligible for benefits. The Social Security spousal benefit may be reduced if the survivor is eligible for benefits based on his or her own employment and that employment was not covered by Social Security, such as employment under the Civil Service Retirement System.