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Who thinks of children when talking about Social Security? It may not be a common word association, but perhaps it should be.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reported that, in 2017, it distributed $2.6 billion dollars each month to benefit 4.2 million children because one or both parents are disabled, retired or deceased. I have been seeing more situations where mature people have younger children, whether because they married a younger spouse or because they adopted.

Benefits for children are one of the family benefits paid by the SSA, the others being spousal and ex-spousal. Survivor benefits, while thought of as a family benefit, are considered a separate benefit. As with all family benefits, one spouse needs to be receiving benefits for other family members to qualify, unless you are considered an independently entitled divorced spouse.

Today’s conventional wisdom encourages you to delay taking your Social Security benefits as long as possible. Having young children may be one reason to take benefits early.

There are two benefits from a worker’s benefit available to a family member relating to children:

“Child-in-care” benefits. This is where things get somewhat convoluted, due to nomenclature. This benefit also is referred to as “child-in-care” spousal benefits. It is no different than the normal spousal benefit except that it is available to an adult spouse of any age. Normally to receive spousal benefits you must be at least 62 years old, but not in this case. You must have a child younger than 16 years old and your spouse must be receiving benefits. Child-in-care benefits are paid to spouses who are not eligible for normal spousal benefits. To meet the requirement for these benefits, you must exercise parental control and responsibilities for a child under 16 years of age or a disabled child before the age of 22.

Children’s benefits are paid to a child’s representative for a child up to age 18, age 19 if still in high school or disabled before age 22. In certain cases, benefits can be paid to a stepchild, grandchild, step-grandchild or adopted child.As with all other benefits, there is no reduction in benefits for claiming early, and no deeming rules applied to these two benefits. Both benefits are equal to 50% of the worker’s primary insurance amount. The only reduction to these benefits is the family maximum calculation, which is discussed later.

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