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Children's Benefits Under Social Security

Adopted, Stepchildren, Grandchildren, Children of Divorced Parents

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For Social Security purposes, the definitions of eligible adopted children, step children, grand children, and children of divorced parents are:

Adopted children

Legally adopted children. "Adopted children" includes children adopted after the recipient has already started receiving benefits.


Legal stepchildren provided:

  • The child is dependent upon the step-parent/recipient of Social Security for at least one-half of her financial support and maintenance.
  • The step-relationship has existed for at least twelve months prior to applying for benefits.

If the parent and stepparent divorce, the stepchild's benefits will end the month following the month in which the divorce is final.

Children of divorced parents

Are eligible for benefits regardless of whether the child lives with the parent receiving Social Security benefits and whether or not the parents remarry.

Children of unmarried parents

Children whose parents are not married are eligible for benefits under certain circumstances.


Grandchildren may be eligible for benefits provided they meet several conditions:

  • Benefits are not payable on the work record of a parent.
  • Generally, the biological parents of the child must be deceased or disabled, or the grandchild must be legally adopted by the grandparent.
  • The grandchild must have begun living with the grandparent before age 18 and received at least one half of his or her support from the grandparent for the year before the month the grandparent became entitled to retirement or disability insurance benefits.
  • If the grandchild was born during the one-year period, the grandparent must have lived with and provided at least one-half of the child's support for substantially all of the period from the date of birth to the month the grandparent became entitled to benefits.
  • The natural parent(s) of the child must not be making regular contributions to his or her support.

The grandchild may qualify for benefits under these circumstances, even if he or she is a step-grandchild. However, if the grandparents are already receiving benefits at the time they acquire the child, they would need to adopt the child before he or she can qualify for benefits.

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