Social Security Spousal Benefits Guide

Affectionate older couple with the wife holding on lovingly to the husband's face.By: Ian MacKenzie

Spousal Benefits

Your spouse may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits on your record. Here’s how:

Qualifying For Spousal Benefits

Your spouse doesn’t need to have a work history with Social Security at all in order to qualify for benefits on your record as long as they are at least 62 years of age, and are receiving or eligible for retirement or disability benefits. They can also qualify for Medicare at the age of 65. 

If they qualify for benefits on your record, Social Security will pay that amount first. If your record is higher, they will then get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of said benefits equals that of the higher amount. 

They Must:

Be between age 62 and their full retirement age. (The amount will permanently be reduced by a percentage based on the number of months leading up to their full retirement age.)

If they work while receiving benefits, their benefits may be affected by the Retirement Earnings Test.  Once they reach full retirement age, your spouse’s benefits cannot exceed one half of your full retirement amount. If they have reached full retirement age, the can also choose to receive spouse’s benefits and delay receiving their own retirement benefit until a later date. Your spouse can also receive benefits at any age as long as they are cary for your child who is also receiving benefits. Your spouse would receive said benefits until your child reaches the age of 16

How To Apply

If you wish to complete the application online simply go to their application link, and follow the step by step instructions. Of course, you can always call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778); or visit your local Social Security office.

Documents And Information Needed

  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States 
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968.
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year.
  • Final divorce decree, if applying as a divorced spouse; and
  • Marriage certificate.

Approval Process

It can take the SSA about six weeks to process your application and start your benefits. It could take longer if the information you supplied is incorrect, or the SSA requests that you provide additional information. Also, the number of applications sent to the SSA for retirement benefits could contribute to a longer-than-usual processing time as well. Wait times can vary.

Spousal Benefits Calculator 

If you want to get an idea of the benefits you or your spouse could be eligible for, you can use the Spousal Benefits Calculator. 

Situations Where Spousal Benefits Are Subject To Tax

Up to 50% of benefits may be subject to tax for those with incomes between $25,000 and $34,000,. Those with incomes above $34,000 may be taxed on up to 85%.

Other Social Security Benefit Guides

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Spousal BenefitsRead the GuideThe current article you are reading
Government Benefits GuidesLists of most common government benefits, requirements to qualify and how to apply