How are spousal Social Security benefits determined?


Quick Answer

The Social Security Administration determines the amount of benefits a spouse receives from a partner's work record by the amount the partner receives and the spouse's age when initiating the benefits, reports the SSA. Unmarried ex-spouses can also receive benefits if they were married long enough to the working partner.

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Full Answer

Spouses are able to receive Social Security benefits from a partner's work record if the partner is already receiving benefits and the spouse is at least 62 years old, according to the SSA. If the spouse waits until full retirement age to begin collecting benefits, the spousal benefit is half of whatever amount the working partner receives, as of 2015. If the spouse begins collecting benefits early, the SSA permanently reduces the monthly amount based on how many months before full retirement age the spouse initiates payments. If the spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits based on her own work record as well as spousal benefits, the Social Security Administration gives a combination of benefit payments that equals the higher benefit amount. Spouses caring for a working partner's minor child can receive spousal benefits at any age.

Divorced ex-spouses are able to receive spousal payments based on a single or married ex-partner's work record if they were married to their spouses for at least 10 years before the divorce, and they are not currently married, states the SSA. A divorced ex-spouse receives the same spousal benefit amount that a married spouse receives.

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