If you are collecting, or eligible for, Social Security disability benefits, your spouse (or even your ex-spouse) may be able to get dependents benefits, depending on his or her age and whether you have minor children. The spouse's benefit is available only for recipients of SSDI (Social Security disability insurance), not SSI.
Eligibility for Spousal Benefit
If you begin to receive SSDI benefits, your spouse may also be eligible for benefits on your earnings in the following situations.
Your spouse is 62 years or older. If your spouse is 62 years or older when you start receiving disability benefits, he or she can also get a monthly benefit based on your earnings record unless he or she can get a higher benefit amount on his or her own record. But if your spouse collects a spousal benefit before full retirement age, the early retirement penalty will permanently lower his or her benefit. This does not apply to those caring for a child under 16 who is eligible for a child's benefit.
Your spouse is caring for your minor child. Your spouse can get benefits if he or she cares for your child who is under the age of 16. While a child's dependent benefits continue until age 18, your spouse’s benefits will stop when your child turns 16, unless your spouse becomes eligible for retirement or widower(s) benefits. Note that the early retirement penalty does not apply to those caring for a child under 16.
However, if your spouse works while collecting benefits based on caring for a child under 16, Social Security may take away some of the spousal benefit. For the year 2014, if your spouse earns over the limit of $15,480 ($1,290 per month), the spousal benefit will be reduced by $1 for every $2 earned over the limit. This can lower the spoual benefit to zero.
Your spouse is caring for your disabled child. If your spouse is caring for your child who is disabled and collecting Social Security benefits, your spouse can get dependents benefits even if your child is over 16 or an adult. Your child has to be in your spouse's care for your spouse to collect benefits. Explain to Social Security that your spouse has parental control and responsibility over a mentally or physically disabled child. (Note: If your spouse is caring for a disabled child over age 22, the disability must have occurred before age 22 in order for your spouse to qualify for these spousal benefits.)
Amount of Spousal Benefit
Your spouse is entitled to up to 50% of your monthly benefit amount, subject to a family maximum amount. (This means that if you have children who are collecting benefits as well, your spouse's benefit amount will be reduced.)
If your spouse has his or her own qualifying earnings record with Social Security, the SSA will pay that benefit amount first. However, if the amount that your spouse is entitled to based on your record is higher, the SSA will combine the benefits to make sure that your spouse receives the higher amount.
If your spouse begins to collect the spouse's benefit between age 62 and his or her full retirement age, the monthly benefit amount will be permanently reduced. The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates the reduction amount using a formula based on the number of months from when benefits began until full retirement age. (Again, if your spouse is receiving mother's or father's benefits based on caring for a child, the benefit is not reduced.)
Dependents Benefit for Former Spouses
If you have a marriage that ended in divorce, your former spouse may be eligible for benefits based on your work earnings if all of the following are true.
- The marriage lasted at least ten years.
- Your former spouse is at least 62 years old.
- Your former spouse is not married (some exceptions discussed below), and
- Your former spouse can’t get a benefit based on his or her (or another person's) earnings record in an amount higher than or equal to yours.
If your former spouse marries someone who is also eligible for Social Security benefits (including parent's or widow(er) benefits), his or her spousal benefits won't be affected.
If your former spouse gets benefits based on your earnings records, any benefit amount that your current spouse and children are entitled to is not affected.
How Does My Spouse Apply for a Husband or Wife's Benefit?
Your spouse must contact the SSA to apply for benefits. The SSA’s phone number is 800-772-1213. Your spouse will need his or her Social Security number and birth certificate. The SSA may also require your marriage certificate and information about any prior marriages.