Eligibility for Spouse’s Benefits

By Vonda Van Til, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

With more than 80 years of service, the Social Security Administration has helped secure today and tomorrow with financial benefits, information, and tools that support you throughout life’s journey.  In May, we recognize Older Americans month and we encourage you to participate by learning about available Social Security benefits.  Did you know that you may be able to receive benefits on your spouse’s record if you have not worked or do not have enough Social Security credits to qualify for your own Social Security benefits?  To qualify for spouse’s benefits, you must be:

  • 62 years of age or older; or
  • Any age and care for a child who is younger than age 16 or who is disabled and entitled to receive benefits on your spouse’s record.

Your full spouse’s benefit could be up to one-half the amount your spouse is entitled to receive at their full retirement age.  If you choose to receive spouse’s benefits before you reach full retirement age, you will get a permanently reduced benefit.

If you wait until you reach full retirement age to receive benefits, you will receive your full spouse’s benefit amount – up to half the amount your spouse can receive.  You will also get your full spouse’s benefit if you care for a child who is younger than age 16 or who has a disability and is entitled to receive benefits on your spouse’s record.

If your benefits as a spouse are higher than your own retirement benefits, you will get a combination of benefits that equal the higher spouse benefit.  For example, Sandy qualifies for a retirement benefit of $250 and a spouse’s benefit of $400.  At her full retirement age, she will receive her own $250 retirement benefit.  We will add $150 from her spouse’s benefit, for a total of $400.

Want to apply for either your or your spouse’s benefits?  Are you at least 61 years and 8 months old?  Visit www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement to learn more about the process.

Are you divorced, but your marriage lasted at least 10 years?  You may be able to get benefits on your former spouse’s record.  Explore more about your eligibility by visiting our Benefits Planner page at www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html for more information.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.