Social Security Benefits for Children: The 4 Most Important Things You Should Know

social security for children

Social Security benefits for children are a big deal. In January 2017, there were more than 4.2 million children receiving Social Security benefits because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired or deceased. These benefits payments to children total more than $2.6 billion every month.

Sadly, many children don’t get the benefits for which they are eligible.  Most people don’t know about the qualifications and rules for this special benefit, so they don’t know to apply for the children in their lives.

children on social security

Who Is Eligible for Social Security Benefits for Children?

A child who is your biological child, adopted child, or dependent stepchild  is eligible for children’s benefits if:

  • you become disabled
  • you retire
  • you die

AND the child is:

  • unmarried, and
  • under age 18, or
  • 18-19 and a full-time student in secondary school through grade 12, or
  • 18 or older and disabled with a disability that started before age 22.

What about Grandkids?

As long as the rules are followed, dependent grandchildren could be eligible for a benefit. I’ve covered this in depth in my article Social Security for Grandchildren.

How Much Is The Benefit?

If you become disabled or retire, your qualified child is eligible for up to 50% of your full retirement age benefit. If you die, your qualified child is eligible for up to 75% of your full retirement age benefit.

Family Benefit Maximum

Although each qualified child may receive a monthly benefit payment based on your full retirement benefit amount, there is a limit to the amount the Social Security Administration will pay. They refer to this limit as the Family Benefit Maximum. This maximum benefit is not a set number but is about 150 to 180 percent of your full retirement benefit. Where your percentage falls depends on your full retirement age benefit. I’ve included a chart below to help you figure this out for yourself.

There is one notable exception to maximum calculation. If you have a divorced spouse who is receiving benefits from your work record, it will not count in the family benefit maximum and it will not affect the amount of benefits you or your family may receive.

Children’s Benefits and the Earnings Limit

If a child is receiving benefits from Social Security, they are subject to a limit on the amount of earnings they can receive from wages or net earnings from self employment. These income limits change on an annual basis and listed below is the limit amount for 2018.

It should be noted that your child’s earnings affect only their own benefits and not yours or those of any other beneficiaries on your record. For an in-depth view of the Social Security earnings limit, see my article on this subject.

the 2020 social security income limit chart

Strategy: Why Filing Early for Retirement Benefits Could Be Best

Unfortunately, you don’t get much of a say so as to when you file for survivors benefits or disability.  You do get to decide when to apply for your retirement benefits.  For a household with children, the decision when to begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits is more complicated.  The penalty for not understanding the rules and the resulting difference in lifetime benefits can be enormous.

In many cases, there are many reasons to delay filing for social security benefits. But not all cases are the same!  If you have kids at home, and are thinking about filing for Social Security, filing early could make more sense. Why? Your children cannot collect a Social Security benefit until you file.

Consider the difference in lifetime benefit amounts for a couple with the following circumstances.

Roger is 62 and his wife is 46. They have two kids at home, ages 8 & 10.  Roger is financially well off enough to stop working and can be flexible on what age he begins to collect Social Security.

If Roger waits until his full retirement age, he’ll get $2,000 per month. If he files now, he’ll only get $1,500 per month.   He ran the numbers and figured out that if he lived to 90, he’d receive an additional $70,000 in benefits for delaying filing until 66 instead of filing at 62.

For most people, this math shows that it makes sense to delay receiving benefits. However, this does not account for the benefits paid to the children. While the children are eligible for benefits based upon Roger’s retirement, the kids cannot get benefits until he files.   Roger’s family would able to collect thousands of dollars more in lifetime benefits if Roger files early and turns on the benefits for his children.

Here’s how…

If you run Roger’s full retirement age benefit through the family benefit calculator, you’ll arrive at a maximum benefit of approximately $3,500 . If Roger files at 62 he’ll receive $1,500 and each of his children would be eligible for $1,000 in children’s benefits. That additional $2,ooo per month ($1,000 for each of the children) is only available if Roger files for Social Security.

Reporting Requirements

Whenever a minor child receives a benefit, the Social Security Administration pays the benefit to a representative payee. This individual is often a parent and is responsible for managing the benefits on behalf of the child. One of the responsibilities of the representative payee is to make an annual accounting of how the Social Security benefits have been used through a Representative Payee Report on Form SSA-6230. This form requires you to report the amount of the child’s benefit that was spent and the amount that was saved.

If you have saved part or all of the benefit amount you’ll also be required to list the institution where it was saved along with the account numbers. IF you haven’t spent all the money, the SSA will require you to send it back to them when your child turns 18. This is because your child is considered an adult in their eyes and they will begin to deal directly with them.

This surprises many who were trying to do the prudent thing and save the checks for the child’s car, college tuition or some other important expense. You can see the Social Security Administration’s page titled “Transfer of Conserved Funds“on this topic for more information.

Are Children’s Benefits Taxable?

One of the most frequently asked questions about Social Security Children’s benefits is, “Are these benefits for children considered taxable income?”
 
The short answer is that they are taxable, but that doesn’t mean your child will have to pay tax on them.
 
The taxation of these benefits is determined using the income of the child. Generally speaking, if the child’s total income plus one half of their Social Security benefit does not exceed $25,000, then no taxes will be owed. You can read more details on the IRS page dealing with children’s benefits.

How To Apply For Child Benefits

You can apply for benefits at your local Social Security office or via phone.

Ready to start your application for benefits for your child?  Review the Information You Need To Apply For Child’s Benefits page on the Social Security website to ensure you have all the necessary documentation.

Questions about child’s benefits? Ask the crowd in my free Facebook members group!

the 2020 social security earnings limit

141
Leave a Reply

avatar
129 Comment threads
12 Thread replies
6 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
123 Comment authors
Maria garciaGingerDebbieJoeTina Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Maria garcia
Guest
Maria garcia

My mother passed away when I was 14 years old. Leaving me without a legal guardian. I slipped through the holes of the state and never received any benifits. I am now an adult is there anything I can do considering I was a minor

Ginger
Guest
Ginger

Joe, contact an attorney and once he is 18 they will claim the money against him but they can only count it once. get an attorney and a congressman or senator can help you. Take his money and put it into your name and they can never touch it.

Debbie
Guest
Debbie

I am 65 years old and have an adopted 17 (almost 18 yr old). I realize she will stop getting benefits from my SS when she turns 18. But I just received a letter that I have to RETURN the money she was paid?? Saved/invested benefits, interest earned and money “left over”. Was this a “loan”??? Thought it was “my” benefits . Can anyone explain? I keep trying to call SS but the wait is always over an hour!

Joe
Guest
Joe

My son receives SSI due to my disability. He turns 18 in a few weeks but still has a year remaining in High School. We received a letter from SSI stating that any money that we had ‘saved’ for him ‘from the benefit allocated to him’ may need to be returned. We basically live month to month and were never able to save money for anyone. However my son’s maternal grandmother left him $10,000 in her will. This $10,000 was placed into a 2 year cd to help him go to college once he graduates from high school. Can the… Read more »

Tina
Guest
Tina

As my daughters representative for her benefits can I apply for a lump sum?

DINA HESS
Guest
DINA HESS

Hi, we are grandparents raising grandchildren. They have lived with us for 6 yrs and are now ages 9 and 12. Their grandfather is retiring this year. Will the boys be able to collect SS benefits from their grandfather if they are our dependents? we have not adopted or filed for guardianship. Both parents are out of the picture and we intend to raise them until they are adults. We do claim them as dependents on our taxes.

Dante
Guest
Dante

My ex has adopted her granddaughter n she receives SSI for disability can her granddaughters get SSI

Mike
Guest
Mike

Hello Mr. Devin.

You are a wealth of knowledge and information. I have had such a tough time navigating through this.

I am trying to figure out if my current disability benefits being received by me will be reduced if I apply for social security benefits for my 16 year old daughter. Also I am a nine months behind on my child support payments since becoming totally disabled. Can the disability benefits help with child support payments?

Mike

Sent from my iPod

Stanley Kajdasz
Guest
Stanley Kajdasz

I have two children receiving survivor benefits for their deceased mother. I do not receive benefits from her death. When my daughter turns 18 will her portion then be added to my son’s portion as his monthly payment?

bee
Guest
bee

If I am marrying for the first time, is my child’s survior benefits affected? I was not married to her father who is now deceased.

FLF
Guest
FLF

My mother gets social security for my sister because my sisters father is disabled. If my sister gets a job will it interfere with the amount of social security my mother receives for her?

Lorin
Guest
Lorin

SSDI for lorin

Lorin
Guest
Lorin

I was on Sadi for about 10 years before I went back to work and I had 3 minor children in school at the time but I didn’t get any benefits for my children. I didn’t fill my paperwork out, someone from social security did. I don’t remember anyone asking me about my children. Just something that came to my mind after all these years. Are they still entitled to money?

Tina Greene
Guest
Tina Greene

My daughters father died. We were not together, he was on ssi. Would she still qualify for benefits.

Reva Newman
Guest
Reva Newman

How much of the childs check can you charge for house expence for each month?

Ashley Michelle Bowen
Guest
Ashley Michelle Bowen

My daughters father passed away 11 yrs ago. They have been receiving his survivors benefits, but have been raised by my husband of 10 yrs and have asked him to adopt them. We live in Arkansas. I’ve called Social security several times…. I’ve looked it up and I’ve talked to several attorneys and I get different answers every time. Will this stop their benefits???

GiGi
Guest
GiGi

It seems that My child’s father applied for, received, and spent her SSDI benefits. We had joint custody but he only saw her briefly 2 times during the 18 months surrounding this event.

I was unaware until this past week. I am upset for her and feel this is very close to a crime upon her.

What can be done?

Donna Armstrong
Guest
Donna Armstrong

I’m getting SSDI and my two minor children are not receiving but $15 a piece , they have them all messed up I have been trying to get some one to HELP ME WITH THE CHIILDRENS MONEY.THEY HAVE THERE FATHER DOWN AS THERE ONLY BLOOD RELATIVE ,BUT THAT IS NOT TRUE I’VE BEEN THERE SOUL PROVIDER SINCE BIRTH AND THERE FATHER WAS THE ONE WHO STAYED HOME TAKING CARE OF THE HOME FRONT, WHILE I BROUGHT IN THE MONEY I HAVE THERE LONG FORM BIRTHCERTIFICATE SHOWING IM THE BITH MOTHER, EVEN THERE FATHER SAID HE WOULD TELL ANYONE THAT I… Read more »

Krista
Guest
Krista

Who receives the s.s. survivor benefit for an 18 year old high school senior? Parent or student?

Jeffrey
Guest
Jeffrey

What if the mother died but she barely worked do the kids still receive benefits

RICO
Guest
RICO

I plan on retiring at age 60 and then claim social security early at age 62 and will still have minor children at that time. My question is would my pension from my military and civilian job affect the eligibility of my minor children to collect social security benefit?

Barbara Mikowski
Guest
Barbara Mikowski

If 2 children are receiving survivors benefits and one graduates, no longer receiving benefits, does the remaining eligible child’s benefits increase?

Heidi Bach
Guest
Heidi Bach

my Husbands sons receive SS benefit as he is retired. The benefit goes to their mom his ex, since she has primary custody. Are any of those funds available to their dad when he has the kids?

nadine
Guest
nadine

If a minor child in the state of Pa is receiving fathers disability benifits, Does said child lose these benifits if they change their last name? They don’t want anyone to know that the fathers is theirs, wants nothing to do with father. Wants to take her mothers’ maiden name.

Mike W
Guest
Mike W

I am 62 years old. Can I file for retirement benefits for me and benefits for my minor children, then suspend my benefits until full retirement age, paying back what they paid me, and still keep collecting the benefit for my minor children?

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

I have been receiving social security survivor benefits since I was 3 but have just recently turned 18. I am going to a trade school full time mon-fri For 6 months and have no time to work & pay my bills Until after it is over in February. Can I apply to still get the benefits until February?

Cierna Ritts
Guest
Cierna Ritts

Hello. I have a question regarding my kids’ survivors benefits. My late husband had a daughter who turned 18 in April, and graduated in June. I’ve been expecting some communication from them that my two under age children will be receiving an increase in benefits. However, when I spoke to Social Security today, they don’t show any increase in the record. Am I missing something? Do you know how long it usually takes for an adjustment?

jamie
Guest
jamie

hi devin ive been disabled since i was 23, i got married 9 yrs, ago and i just found out that i could of put my step child on my benifits, so i went in to apply last month they told me i had to have and an appointment so i had my appointment yesterday and they asked four questions 1 being how much my wife makes 2 where me and my wife were married and 3 how old is the child 4 where he went to school, and then told me my wife makes to much for me to… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

My ex-husband continues to threaten that he is going to “make me pay the children back” because I have spent the SSRI funds that they receive in order to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, school expenses, etc., etc. I have not spent the money on frivolous things like a trip to Disneyland or a cruise to the Caribbean. I have called the SS department several times regarding his complaint and whether I was allowed to use the SSRI benefit for the above, and I have repeatedly been told that that is fine. But, as I… Read more »

Kenneth Ray Newton
Guest
Kenneth Ray Newton

I get disability and I applied for my two son who is 4 and 12 haven’t heard from them in five months

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

Will the dependent child’s benefit end if the child no longer lives with the parent? Or does the parent have rights to that money. The parent is receiving ssi benefits as well through a rep payee

Betty
Guest
Betty

in the article it says the adult should already be receiving SSN checks for the child to receive survivor benefits. just to clarify, if the adult dies before retirement age therefore has not started receiving the SSN benefits, the surviving spouse and children will not receive survivor benefits?

Sean
Guest
Sean

My child is receiving benefits because her father is deceased and we were not married. If my husband was to adopt my daughter would she lose her benefits?

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

my grandson’s mom is deceased at 23 years of age didnt work that much how much if any will my grandson receive.

Madison
Guest
Madison

My now 18 yo son, who lives with his father who wants nothing to do with him was bought a car with the Ssdi benefits my son received because I was disabled. Now his father refuses to give him the car, saying it is his. It was paid for exclusively with his ssdi money. Anyone know what to do in this situation?

Tom
Guest
Tom

I am a divorced dad with 2 minor children. I pay child support, child care and health benefits. I was informed that my children are eligible for SS benefits. How does SSA determine the representative payee?

Holly Swogger
Guest
Holly Swogger

my daughters father just recently passedaway onfathers day, my mother whom thinks since i have some drug crimes in my past i would not be able to claim the survivor benifits for my daughter so says she is going to claim them. i told her no she could not do that? my questionis can she? i have full custody of my daughter, always have, wheni did a short prison stay my mother kept my daughter but did not ever lose my rights and she thinks she can use that.. what cani do?

Kim
Guest
Kim

If a child is receiving survivor benefits and then gets adopted, will the child continue to receive the survivor benefits?

Missy
Guest
Missy

I am on,ssi the father,of,my 2,children was on ssi and,just passed away, will they get survivors benefits and,if,so,how much ?

James
Guest
James

My spouse dies and I filed for survivor benefits for my child thats 8 in January, I was told in March that it was sent to the Treasury department and is pending. How long does it take to start getting a check?

William
Guest
William

My uncle had a stroke so we took his 2 kids in who were 16 and 17. The 17 year old turned 18 so took control over the social security paynents from her dad but cause of custody issues we were unable to collect any payments for the 16 year old. He lived with me for 10 months before my sister took legal guardianship of him and and got the payments fixed and recieved all of his back pay. She offered to pay me back some for him living with me and taking care of him but he said all… Read more »

Cheyenne Martin
Guest
Cheyenne Martin

Are they allowed to deny me benefits do to father not having “ enough work history “ I have two kids by himself and I’m 21 he was 21 when he died

Raymond Houston
Guest

I have been receiving benefits since 1984. I was married in 2010 and have recently adopted my wife’s two children. Her and the children are not US Citizens. Are the children eligible to receive benefits?

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Does the dependent stepchild have to be an American citizen to qualify ?

Pat McGivney
Guest
Pat McGivney

I have read conflicting comments about a child’s benefit amount if a parent files for retirement at less than FRA. do you know if the child’s benefit amount is 50% of the reduced benefit (if parent files at 62) or 50% of the estimated Full retirement benefit?

Mike
Guest
Mike

If I remarry and my new husband adopts my child, is she still eligible for a benefit from her deceased father?

Lisa Hall
Guest
Lisa Hall

Hi Devin, question for you. My daughter receives survivor benefits as her dad passed years ago. My new husband wants to adopt her and I can’t seem to get a clear answer on if the benefits will be effected. Do you know? thanks!!

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

Question – my son turns 18 three months before he graduates from high school. I’m divorced and retired and drawing my own SS. His mother is currently getting an amount equal to 50% of my total. When he turns 18 he has to complete a form and them SS pays it to my son directly until he graduates from high school or turns 19. The form my son and his school completes clearly has his graduation date on it. Will Social Security stop the payments then automatically on that date? If they over pay him for some reason am I… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

MY SON HAS A HEARING DISABILITY..HES BEEN GETTING BENEFITS SINCE AGE 7…HIS BENEFIT AMOUNT HAS BEEN 881$..HE JUST TURNED 18 BUT IS STILL IN HIGHSCHOOL…GRADUATES AT AGE 19..THEY REDUCED IS CHECK DOWN TO 532$..THEY ARE USING MY INCOME TO DECIDE HIS AMOUNT…SHOULDN’T HIS BENEFIT AMOUNT STAY THE SAME UNTIL HES OUT OF HIGHSCHOOL? EVEN THOUGH HES 18..HE STILL IN REGULAR SCHOOL?? I APPEALED BUT HAVENT HEARD BACK IN FEW MONTHS