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Spouse's Insurance Benefit

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

320. Spouse's Insurance Benefit

320.1 What is your spouse's insurance benefit amount?

As a spouse, your insurance benefit is one-half of the worker's primary insurance amount (see §302).

The benefit paid to you may be less than one-half of the worker's primary insurance amount if:

  1. The "family maximum" applies (see §§731-732 for an explanation of reduction in benefit rates because of this provision);

  2. You are entitled to a retirement, disability, or widow(er)'s insurance benefit that is smaller than your spouse's benefit rate (only the difference between the retirement, disability, or widow(er)'s benefit and the spouse's benefit rate is paid as a spouse's insurance benefit); or

  3. You qualified for a reduced spouse's benefit before retirement age. (See §§723-724 for an explanation of how the reduced rate is figured.)

    Note: If you have in care the worker's child under age 16 or disabled, who is entitled to child's insurance benefits, your benefits are not reduced. (See §312 for an explanation of "in care".)

320.2 What is the effect of receiving reduced spouse's benefits prior to full retirement age?

If you choose to receive, and are paid, a reduced spouse's benefit for months before full retirement age, you are not entitled to the full spouse's benefit rate upon reaching full retirement age. A reduced benefit rate is payable for as long as you remain entitled to spouse's benefits.

(For possible adjustment at retirement age, see §728.)

320.3 What do you need to know about divorced spouse's benefits?

If you are a divorced spouse, your spouse's benefit is not reduced under (A) above.

If you do not have the worker's entitled child in your care in the first month of your entitlement before full retirement age, your benefit is reduced under (C) above. However, if you have such a child in care in that month, your benefit is not reduced. It remains unreduced even for later months before full retirement age in which no child is in your care.

Last Revised: Feb. 4, 2008

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