A little-known provision in the Social Security regulations allows the spouse of a retiree to also receive Social Security benefits, even if
he or she has not yet reached retirement age, so long as they are caring for a child with disabilities at home.
- Age 62 or older, unless he or she collects a higher Social Security benefit based on his or her earnings record. The spouse benefit amount will be permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months up to his or her full retirement age.
- At any age if he or she is caring for your child under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits.
Your spouse would receive these benefits until the 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 retirement benefits (age 62 or older) or survivor benefits as a widow or widower (age 60).
If your spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on his or her own record, Social Security should always pay that amount first. But if the spouse benefit that is payable on your record is a higher amount, he or she will get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount.
It doesn't matter if your spouse starts getting benefits before, after, or at the same time you do, Social Security will check both records to make sure that your spouse gets the higher amount whenever he or she becomes entitled to it. If your spouse will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government or foreign work, his or her Social Security benefit on your record may be affected.
Since this area of benefits planning is very complicated, it is important to speak with your special needs planner in order to fully analyze your Social Security retirement options. One wrong turn could result in a significant reduction in Social Security benefits.