Will I Ever Receive Spousal Benefits?

Nov 19 2020 - 9:29am

My wife died at the age of 37 in 2009 while our children were 2 and 6 years old at the time. They have received child benefits from SS, but I have never received spousal benefits as I was told by SS there was a maximum family benefit. When my son turned 18, his benefit stopped while my younger child still receives hers. I was again told I would not receive spousal benefits due to the family maximum benefit being reached even though SS publications state I should receive benefits as the parent of a child under 16. Will I ever receive spousal benefits? I have not remarried. Thank you!


I'm sorry for your loss.

If the only person receiving benefits on your wife's Social Security record is one child, her benefit would be well below the family maximum benefit (FMB). Therefore, if your daughter is in your care and she's under age 16 or is disabled, then you should qualify for father's benefits. However, if you're working then your benefits could be subject to Social Security's earnings test. Basically, if you apply for father's benefits, Social Security would need to withhold $1 for every $2 that you earn in excess of $18,240 this year. In 2021, that earnings test exempt amount will increase to $18,960.

If you think that you should qualify for father's benefits (https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.04/handbook-0415.html), you should probably apply as soon as possible. You can only claim benefits retroactively for a maximum of 6 months prior to the month you file your application. But, if you could prove that you were dissuaded from applying sooner due to misinformation furnished by a Social Security employee, then you may be able to claim benefits back to the time that you were misinformed (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200204008).

If you don't have a child in your care who is under age 16 or is disabled, then you would need to be at least age 60, or at least age 50 and disabled, to potentially qualify for widower's benefits. There would still be a limit on how much you could earn, though, until you reach full retirement age (FRA). You may want to consider using our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/purchase) to fully analyze the options available to you in order to determine your best strategy for maximizing your benefits.

Best, Jerry