Even if he or she has never worked under Social Security, your spouse may be able to get benefits if he or she is at least 62 years of age and you are receiving or eligible for retirement or disability benefits. He or she can also qualify for Medicare at age 65.

How Much Will My Spouse Receive?

If your spouse is under full retirement age and qualifies on his or her own record, we will pay that amount first. But if he or she also qualifies for a higher amount as a spouse, they'll get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount. If he or she begins receiving benefits:

If your spouse will receive a pension for work not covered by Social Security such as government or foreign employment, the amount of his or her Social Security benefits on your record may be reduced.

Note: Your husband or wife can also receive just the spouse's benefit at any age if he or she is caring for your child who is also receiving benefits.

Your spouse would receive these benefits until your child reaches age 16. At that time, the child's benefits continue, but your spouse's benefits stop unless he or she is old enough to receive benefits based on their age.

Benefits paid to your spouse will not decrease your retirement benefit. In fact, the value of the benefits he or she may receive, added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.

Maximum Family Benefits

If one of your children also qualifies for benefits, there is a limit to the amount we can pay your family.

The total depends on your benefit amount and the number of family members who also qualify on your record. The total varies, but generally the total amount you and your family can receive is about 150 to 180 percent of your full retirement benefit.

Note: If you have a divorced spouse who also qualifies for benefits, he or she will not affect the amount of benefits you or your family may receive.

If You Or Your Spouse Are Full Retirement Age

If you are full retirement age, you can apply for retirement benefits and then request to have payments suspended. That way, your spouse can receive a spouse's benefit and you can continue to earn delayed retirement credits until age 70.

Note: Only one member of a couple can apply for retirement benefits and have payments suspended so his or her current spouse can collect benefits.

If your spouse has reached full retirement age and is eligible for a spouse's benefit and his or her own retirement benefit, he or she has a choice. Your spouse can choose to receive only the spouse's benefit when he or she applies online and delay receiving retirement benefits until a later date. If retirement benefits are delayed, a higher benefit may be received at a later date based on the effect of delayed retirement credits.

Note: If both you and your spouse are full retirement age, only one of you can choose to receive spouse’s benefits now and delay receiving your own retirement benefits until a later date. 

If Your Spouse Worked

If your spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on his or her own record we will pay that amount first. But if the benefit on your record is a higher amount, he or she will get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount (reduced for age).

It doesn't matter if your spouse starts getting benefits before, after, or at the same time you do--we will check both records to make sure your spouse gets the higher amount.

If your spouse continues to work while receiving benefits, the same earnings limits apply to him or her as apply to you. If your spouse is eligible for benefits this year and is also working, you can use our earnings test calculator to see how those earnings would affect your spouse's benefit payments. (Your spouse's earnings affect only his or her own benefits; they do not affect your benefits or those of any other beneficiaries on your record.)

The Next Step

If your spouse is not already receiving benefits, he or she can apply online for benefits based on age.

If you and your spouse apply online for retirement benefits at the same time, or if your spouse applies online after you start receiving benefits, we will check his or her eligibility for benefits as a spouse. If he or she is qualified, the online application will automatically include a request for spousal benefits on your record.

If your spouse applies for benefits, he or she needs to be ready to supply the information we need to approve their application for these benefits:

Click on the items below for a description of benefits that may be paid to your: