Social Security and Social Security Benefits

Social Security Benefits for a Spouse

What are the requirements to claim benefits for a spouse in Social Security?

The Social Security Benefits for a spouse or a widow(er) rules states that the person seeking Social Security benefits must be married to the worker or meet the following conditions. The marriage must be recognized as valid in the state where it was performed.

A person may meet the marriage requirement even if he or she was not legally married to the worker. The person claiming the Social Security benefits must prove that there was a 'deemed valid marriage'. The following conditions must be met:

  1. There was a marriage ceremony.
  2. The person claiming the Social Security benefits married the worker in good faith not knowing any impediment to the marriage.
  3. The person claiming the Social Security benefits was living with the worker at the time of his or her entitlement to benefits or at the time of death.
  4. There is no other person entitled on the worker's earnings record as a legal wife or widow. This means that the claim for the Social Security benefits based on the deemed valid marriage will be void if someone else becomes entitled as the legal spouse or widow(er).
  5. The marriage is invalid because there was a legal impediment or there was a defect in the procedure followed in connection with the marriage ceremony. An example of a legal impediment is if the worker is already married at the time of the marriage.

Duration of marriage requirements

In order to be eligible as the spouse of a worker, in most cases, the marriage must have lasted for one or more years before the worker became eligible for Social Security benefits. The exceptions to this rule are:

  1. The person claiming the Social Security benefits is the natural parent of the worker's child. If there was a live child born to the person claiming the Social Security benefits and the worker, then this requirement is met even though the child may not be alive at the time the claim is filed.
  2. The person claiming the Social Security benefits was entitled or potentially entitled (meaning if you had applied for the Social Security benefits then, you would have received the benefits) to spouse's benefits, widow's benefits, parent's benefits, or childhood disability benefits in the month before the month of marriage to the worker.