When Can I Collect My Spouse’s Social Security Benefits?

Logo of the Social Security AdministrationSocial Security is primarily a retirement benefit for workers who have payed into the system, but if you are the spouse of an eligible recipient, you may also be eligible to collect on their account.

Stay-at-home parents are rightly recognized as contributors and can receive benefits, even if they have not worked enough to be eligible for their own benefits.

The amount of benefits that you will receive as a spouse depends on a number of factors, including the amount of your working spouse’s full benefit, your age, and your current marital status.

For Current Spouses

If you are married to a living worker eligible for retirement benefits, you can sign up to collect benefits equal to a fraction of your spouse’s full retirement benefits. If you begin collecting at full retirement age you are eligible for 50% of your spouses full benefits.

You can take your benefits at age 62 but only at a fraction of your spouse’s full retirement benefits. The earlier you take the benefits, the less you will receive monthly. Your full retirement age is later if you were born in a later year, so the later you were born, the more you sacrifice if you take your benefits at 62. This chart shows an example of how much benefits are reduced if taken early.

On the other hand, you can apply for benefits and have payment suspended in order to earn a delayed retirement credit. One spouse can delay receiving his or her benefits in order for monthly benefits to increase by a certain percentage for each month of delay.

Your dependent children under 18 may also be eligible for benefits on your spouse’s account. Children can receive up to one-half of the primary recipient’s full retirement benefits. However, benefits for the family are capped at a percentage of the primary recipient’s full benefits, usually 150% to 180%, even if the individual benefits would add up to more than this.

Benefits can also be decreased or limited if you are still working while receiving benefits. If you are under the full retirement age and make more than the annual income limit, then your benefits will be reduced by one dollar for every two dollars that you earn above the limit.

For Caregivers

If you are the primary caregiver for your spouse, you can apply for Social Security Disability benefits even if they have not reached retirement age. If your spouse can no longer work because of a disability, but they were working earlier in life, they might be eligible for benefits. If your spouse is not capable of working, the task of obtaining and managing the benefits will likely fall to you, the primary caregiver.

For Widows or Widowers

If your spouse who was eligible for retirement benefits has passed away, you can collect benefits up to their full retirement benefits. As with other benefits, you can choose to collect early, but at a reduced rate.

Survivors’ benefits can be collected starting at 60. You will be eligible for your deceased spouse’s full benefits only if you begin collecting at or after your full retirement age for survivors.

Minor children may also eligible for benefits if a working parent dies, but the family cap on benefits mentioned earlier still applies.

For Divorcees

If you are divorced, you are still eligible for up to half of your ex-spouse’s full benefits. However, if you are eligible for your own retirement benefits based on your own work, you will need to choose which to receive, because you cannot receive both simultaneously.

You can choose to delay your retirement benefits and accept your ex-spouse’s benefits in order to gain a delayed retirement credit on your own retirement benefits.

If you have remarried, you will not be eligible for benefits from a previous marriage unless the second marriage ends.

Cut the Confusion

Social Security, retirement, and disability benefits are there for you when you need them, but figuring out the system and how to apply for them can be one of the more frustrating things you have ever done. That’s where we come in. At Summit Disability Law Group, we specialize in these types of claims and we have the answers to your questions. We want to help you get the assistance you need. We can take all of the stress out of the process and get you on your way to receive the benefits you have been working for for so long. If you have questions, or to talk to us about starting your claim, call us now at 801.890.1030.


Image by the Social Security Administration via Wikimedia.