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Social Security Retirement Insurance

Spouses: Benefits For Spouses

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If you are the spouse or ex-spouse of a worker who receives Social Security Retirement (SSR) benefits, you may be eligible for benefits because of your relationship to the worker even if the worker is deceased. This is in addition to any Social Security benefits to which you may be entitled in your own right.


As a spouse or ex-spouse, you are not eligible for benefits merely because of your marriage. The worker must receive (or have received if he or she is deceased) SSR.  (If the worker received SSDI, click here.)

You are eligible to receive benefits if:

  • Your spouse is receiving Social Security Retirement Income (SSR)
  • Your spouse is deceased, and you were married at the date of his or her death, and he or she received SSR before his or her death. 
  • You are age 62 or older or you are the spouse, and taking care of a child of you and your spouse and the child is under age 16 or is disabled.
  • The fact that the spouse in question could be "disabled" doesn't count unless he or she is applying for his or her own benefits.

With respect to Social Security Retirement, it also doesn't matter whether the spouse is collecting Social Security Retirement as long as the worker spouse fulfills the requirements that would permit the spouse to receive the benefit. For example, Richard and Annie are both age 63. Richard could retire early from work and start collecting Social Security Retirement, but he hasn't. Annie never worked in the workplace. She's been a homemaker. Annie can qualify now for a Social Security benefit as a spouse.

A Spouse's Own Eligibility: If a spouse is eligible for a retirement benefit based on his or her own earnings, and if that benefit is higher than the spousal benefit, then Social Security pays the retirement benefit. Otherwise Social Security pays the spousal benefit.

There is a limit to the amount of money payable to a family each month.

Start the sign-up process by calling Social Security. You can file an appeal if you are turned down.

Amount of Benefit

As the spouse of an eligible worker you can receive one-half (50%) of the worker's full benefit unless you begin collecting benefits before age 65, or the worker's Full Retirement Age for purposes of SSR, if later.(For a definition of "Full Retirement Age" see Security Retirement.) In that case, the amount of your benefit is permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months between the time you apply for the benefit and the time you will reach age Full Retirement Age. For example, if you begin collecting benefits at age 64, the benefit amount would be about 46% of the worker's full benefit. At age 63, it would be about 42% and at age 62, 37.5%.

If you care for a Child

You will receive full benefits, regardless of your age, if you are taking care of a child who is under age 16 or of a child who is disabled and receiving Social Security benefits. The benefits will end the month before the youngest child turns 16, although the child will continue receiving benefits until age 18.

Dual Eligibility

If you're eligible for both your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse, you will get your own benefit first. If your benefit as a spouse is higher than your own retirement benefit, you'll get a combination of benefits equaling the higher benefit. For Example: Mary Ann qualifies for a retirement benefit of $250 and a spouse's benefit of $400. At age 65, she will receive her own $250 retirement benefit and Social Security will add $150 from her spousal benefit, for a total of $400. If she takes her retirement benefit at any time before she turns 65, both amounts will be reduced.

If you are a survivor, see Survivors.

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