Spouses can receive Social Security benefits based on their working partner's earnings if they are at least 62 years old or care for the qualifying child of the working partner, as of 2015. Divorced spouses whose marriages lasted at least 10 years may also be eligible for spousal benefits.
Spouses who begin collecting benefits at full retirement age receive half of their working partner's full retirement benefit amount. If spouses choose to begin receiving benefits early, the Social Security Administration reduces the benefit by a percentage based on the amount of time to full retirement age. Spouses do not qualify for delayed retirement credits if they postpone retirement past full retirement age. If the spouse also worked and earned regular Social Security benefits, the SSA pays the larger amount of regular or spousal benefits, but not both.
Spouses are able to receive spousal benefits regardless of their age if they care for the working partner's children, and the children can also receive benefits. Eligible children must be unmarried, under age 18, or age 19 or under and enrolled full-time in school. For spouses caring for children, the SSA does not reduce the benefit amount regardless of the beneficiary's age. Divorced spouses may receive spousal benefits only if they are unmarried.