As previously discussed, certain members of your family may be entitled to receive benefits from Social Security even if they are not disabled and you die. Here, we discuss spousal benefits specifically. In this instance, benefits are only available if you received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, not Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
In order to qualify for spousal benefits, if your spouse is age 62 or older, and he or she applies for spouse’s benefits, he or she may receive monthly benefits based on your earnings record, unless he or she is entitled to a higher benefit amount based on his or her own record. If your spouse elects to collect on your record, he or she will be entitled to up to 50% of your monthly benefit amount, subject to the family maximum amount.
If your spouse collects spousal benefits before he or she reaches full retirement age, he or she will face an early retirement penalty that will permanently lower his or her benefit. The penalty does not apply, however, if the spouse is caring for a child under age 16 who is also eligible for children’s dependent benefits on your work record.
Although your child is entitled to receive dependent benefits until he or she turns 18, your spouse’s benefits cease when the child turns 16, unless at that point your spouse becomes eligible for retirement or widow/widower benefits. Social Security may also reduce your spouse’s monthly benefits if he or she is working while collecting benefits that are based on caring for a child under age 16.
If your spouse is caring for a child who is disabled, and he or she is collecting Social Security benefits, your spouse can receive dependent benefits even if the child is over age 16 or an adult, but the child needs to be in the spouse’s care for him or her to collect benefits.
In some instances, an ex-spouse may also be entitled to spousal benefits if he or she was married to you for at least ten years and is currently age 62 or older.
When applying for spousal benefits, Social Security will require the spouse’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, Social Security number, and bank routing information for direct deposit.
An important distinction between Social Security retirement benefits and spousal benefits: with spousal benefits, there is no benefit to delaying receipt of benefits past full retirement age; with retirement benefits, on the other hand, if you delay receiving benefits until you reach full retirement age, you will receive an 8% increase for every year you wait to collect until you reach age 70.