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Stepchild-Stepparent Relationship

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

331. Stepchild-Stepparent Relationship

331.1 When does a stepchild-stepparent relationship arise?

In general, a stepchild-stepparent relationship arises when you:

  1. Marry the child's natural parent (in general, this must be after the child's birth); or

  2. Marry the child's adopting parent after the adoption.

331.2 What is the effect of your death as a stepparent?

If you die, your stepchild's entitlement to benefits does not end.

331.3 What is the effect of divorce on a stepchild's benefits?

Once a stepchild is entitled, a divorce ending the parent's marriage (including an invalid ceremonial marriage-see §332) to the stepparent ends the child's benefits if the divorce becomes final in or after July 1996.

331.4 How long does the steprelationship have to exist?

  1. If the parent is living, a stepchild must have been a stepchild of the insured worker for at least one year before filing an application; and

  2. To qualify for survivors benefits, a stepchild must have been the stepchild of the insured worker for at least nine months before the day that the worker died, unless:

    1. The worker and the child's natural or adopting parent were previously married, divorced, and then remarried at the time of the worker's death, and

    2. The nine-month duration-of-relationship requirement was met at the time of the divorce.

Note: If the death of the worker was accidental or occurred in the line of duty while a member of a uniformed service serving on active duty, the nine-month requirement may be considered satisfied; unless the worker could not have been expected to live for nine months at the time of marriage. (See §404 for an explanation of the exception to the nine-month duration-of-marriage requirement.)

(The evidence required to establish the relationships described above is set forth in §§1707-1717.)

Last Revised: Jun. 30, 2004

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