Is What My Niece Was Told By Social Security Correct?

Feb 28 2020 - 2:10pm

I am hoping you can provide some information on this subject. My niece married, had one child and her husband died in a horrific accident. The child was 3 years old at the time. She received social security benefits. My niece married again and that husband adopted her first child. The second husband died due to medical challenges. She also had a child to the second husband. When filing for social security for the second child she was told by social security that they will go by the second husbands information for the adopted child. Is that accurate? Or do they go by which income would be the highest? Thanks in advance for any guidance you can provide.


If a child is potentially eligible for Social Security benefits on the record of more than one parent, they can choose to apply for benefits on whichever parent's record would yield the highest benefit rate. It sounds like your niece's first child would be eligible for benefits on either his natural father's record or his adoptive father's record, since his adoption took place after he had already started drawing benefits on the record of his natural parent. And, if his benefit rate would be higher on the record of his natural father than it would be on the account of his adoptive father, he can opt not to apply for benefits on the adoptive father's account and continue drawing on his natural father's record.

That said, due to the way that family maximum benefits (FMB) work, it can sometimes be advantageous for a child to apply for benefits on the record of a parent with a lower Social Security rate if it would allow the FMBs from the 2 records to be combined. That would only be advantageous, though, if combining the FMBs would yield higher total family benefits, and I can't imagine how that would be possible in your niece's case assuming that she and the 2 children are the only survivors eligible for benefits.

Best, Jerry