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.

2018 social security income limit

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? Post them in the comments below.

73
Leave a Reply

avatar
62 Comment threads
11 Thread replies
4 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
57 Comment authors
Devin CarrollbarbaraChristopher CookKatieLaura Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
barbara
Guest
barbara

my 3 children have been receiving survivor benefits since my husbands death at age 42. 2 of my children are now 18 and will no longer receive benefits upon high school graduation. will my 15 year old daughter receive their portion? how is that calculated?

Christopher Cook
Guest
Christopher Cook

I am disabled and also get benefits for my minor son. His mom and I are divorced but I still get the benefit deposited to my account. Do I need to live with him to keep getting the benefits? The money does go to his mother to help out.

Katie
Guest
Katie

I have a couple clarifying questions:
1) If both parent’s of a child are retired, then the child is eligible to receive a benefit?
2) If a child receives benefits, but did not apply them, how are they receiving the benefit? Should those checks be cashed?
3) Is a child able to assist their retired parents with their Social Security benefit? Or is it strictly for the use of the child?

Thank you for your help.

Laura
Guest
Laura

Hello. My husband and I have been raising his blood relative niece since she was 9 months old, we have been to court and are her legal guardians.. Last April my husband lost his battle to cancer, he was our sole provider. She recieves ssi for mental disabilities, is she elegable to recieve survivirs benefits from my husband? Thank you, please any info will be greatly appreciated.

Signed
Loosing our home and our minds

Eileen Morales
Guest
Eileen Morales

My husband passed away in 2009. My 2 sons where collecting around 700$ a month each till my oldest son turned 18. So now my youngest collects his which is 700$. Shouldn’t he be able to collect the maximum of the benefits. My youngest should be collecting the full benefits right ? Help so confused.

Dama
Guest

I have a question, My boyfriend was the legal guardian of my grand child is she entitled to survivor benefits?

AJ Carlson
Guest
AJ Carlson

I am permanently disabled and receive $885/month in SSDI benefits. I have 2 children. My son lives with me 24/7 and I have joint custody of my daughter. I get $71/mo for each child. Isn’t the minor child benefit amount supposed to be 50% of my benefit amount, so long as it doesn’t exceed the maximum family benefit?

jelissa m horton
Guest
jelissa m horton

the father of my children passed away but he only signed 1 of my children birth certificate and really don’t want my children threw the process but its family that is getting on my last nerves about I receive benfits for one of them but not all I just don’t know its not like his family helps me with anyway

Ora
Guest
Ora

If a child gets SSI monthly and backpay was also approved and they sent 1st installment in June 2018, but never got 2nd installment back in Dec 2018 and last one supposedly to come June 2019. But, we calling and going to office, they acts like they know nothing. The bank messed up 1st time with ss#, but fixed it the nxt day, but SSI kerps using old account saying thats why the 2nd amount wasn’t sent. Makes no sense, cause they sent 1st amount fine and it was correct tgen and wasnt changed after that. Help. Now, they sent… Read more »

Rosemarie Jones
Guest
Rosemarie Jones

Can a child go back and receive their deceased parents. Social security benefit if they didn’t know they could file prior to turning 18. They are in college now and will be tue omg 21 soon but never filed for Their moms social security benefit when she passed in 2013. Parents were not married. So no benefit for spouse is there. Other child is involved as a receipient also. Any advice to go back and get back benefits if allowable thank you

Larry Johnson
Guest
Larry Johnson

I have 3 kids I only get 575.00 a month will social security take any more?

Joyce
Guest
Joyce

If a father who is receiving ssdi and becomes incarcerated can a child start to recieve benifits

Sally
Guest
Sally

What if a child’s only custodial parent who died has always been self-employed and never contributed to Social Security. Does that child qualify for survivor benefits?

amanda
Guest
amanda

my youngest daughters father died recently. he hadn’t seen her since she was 11 months old but was paying support. he’s not on the birth certificate, but there is the support [papers along with the dna test results on record with the court system. i’m not sure what his death will be ruled as since it was a suicide. does she still receive benefits, do i need to put him on the birth certificate, what information do i need to possibly see about filing for benefits for her. i have no idea what to do…

Jennifer Giordano
Guest
Jennifer Giordano

My child’s father passed away suddenly a few weeks ago when I called social security they said he didn’t qualify for benefits as his father didn’t pay enough into social security! I know he worked on the books for approx 2 years and owned a business is there anything else I can do?

Heather sposato
Guest
Heather sposato

Kicking myself for not appealing it!! Since they reference if it’s “of no fault of your own” and it was there fault for sending 10 months worth of back benefits if it’s a basic fact that they’ll only do 6 months..the check came for 10 months..so certainly no fault of mine..grrrrrr..Heather Sposato

Heather sposato
Guest
Heather sposato

I’m just very confused at the fact that I can receive a letter from SS stating that my son qualified for his deceased father’s benefits and he’d receive a check for 12,000 for back benefits that is due from October 2017- September 2018 ( it took me awhile to get this going since his father died in Oct 2017) with then his normal monthly amount in November 2018. Then send a letter stating Oh sorry we changed the dates back benefits start to April 2018. We shouldn’t have paid him anything for those original months so send us 6,000.00 back!!… Read more »

Clyda
Guest
Clyda

Can social security take half of my son’s benefits to give me mine ?

Schelly
Guest

My husband and I are raising both his daughters and have them full time, his ex wife is on disability and gets a check for both kids each month. We don’t care about the money ourselves but we don’t feel that she she be drawing money for them when she hasn’t had them for over 2 years that’s over 14,000 dollars . Can we do anything about it?

Arica
Guest
Arica

My children are 16 and 17 and they each receive the same amount of benefits from their father passing each month. When the oldest is 18 I am told his will no longer be sent. Is this true and if so will his amount then be paid to his younger brother??

Amy
Guest
Amy

I didn’t know about childrens benefits until a few years after their father had started collecting retirement. Can I get retroactive payments? They only went back 6 months. If I hire a lawyer could I get the full amount?

Kimstigall
Guest
Kimstigall

If I have been disabled since age 18, married but separated for 30 years,am I eligible for children’s survivor benefits when my mom passed.

Mbs
Guest
Mbs

SSA has been trying to collect overpayment, from me, that they claim they made to my father BEFORE I was 18 and an adult. What rights do I have?

Heather Sposato
Guest

When I applied for my minor sons survivor benefits from his father..some time had elapsed..no biggie it was my own fault but my caseworker who did the interview said she could get him 10 months of retroactive and told me that his continuing monthly benefit would be 1,000.00 ..I’m his representative..I don’t receive my own ..they’re all his so.sure enough a check of like 11,000.00 came I set up account the way I was told to and then I get a later saying send half back please..over paid. Which I did..my question would be why was I told and then… Read more »

Azazel Namaha
Guest
Azazel Namaha

We have 3 minor children…does each child get 150% of their dads social security or is there a max amount for the family benifite?

paula pikarski
Guest
paula pikarski

What happens when my boyfriends son which is 21 and has been getting SSI for his disability ends up going to a group home? Where does his money go?

Bessie hayes
Guest
Bessie hayes

My child father was on ssd before death can my chid get a dependent check

Michelle Boyer
Guest
Michelle Boyer

My son is 25 and disabled. Collecting survivor benefits from my late husband. If I remarry does it effect his benefits?

Tenacious Widow
Guest
Tenacious Widow

By the way, this is still the ONLY site I have found that directly addresses the earnings of minor specifically with regard to the receipt of survivor benefits. Thank you.

Tenacious Widow
Guest
Tenacious Widow

I wish this article had been here in 2016 when my son (a survivor beneficiary) got an acting job (temporary), which put him over the earnings limit for two years (even though he worked only 14 months). At the time he took the opportunity I did an extensive search on the SSA website on earnings limits for minors and found nothing. They still keep it ambiguous. I’m working through the courts and Congress to have it either eliminated or raised to account for the fact that kids don’t have the tax deductions or other privileges available to adults plus significantly… Read more »

Ms Theresa Hendrix
Guest
Ms Theresa Hendrix

I just found out my daughter’s father has passed. I have paternity papers and custody and child support judgement but I do not have his SSI number. How do I proceed

Shellie
Guest
Shellie

Hi. My son is 30 and a quadriplegic since age 16. His father receives disability and up until recently my son received child benefits. He just received a letter stating he know longer qualifies for child benefits and all monies are “cutoff”. He does work 3 days a week but that doesn’t even pay his light bill
Any suggestions?

Cassy
Guest
Cassy

My neice lost her father a few years ago and is receiving survivor benefits for that, this fall her mother died in a car accident. Can she receive survivor benefits from both parents? (Never married). Also she has 2 younger siblings who would be receiving benefits from their mother as well

jada
Guest
jada

My mother died when I was just a child, my father gets social security benefits for me (I am the beneficiary). I am now 17 (still in highschool), but I would like for the benefits/check to be made out directly to me instead. My father no longer uses that money for me, if he does its a very small portion. Is it possible for me to claim rightful ownership of that money and have it made out directly to me?

Tiffany
Guest
Tiffany

My problem is this. In May of 2018 my son’s father unexpectedly and very sadley passed away. I applied in September of 2018 as it was difficult for me to really accept he was gone forever. I was td i was approved and would start receiving benefits in October of 2018. Since then i can never get ahold of any3to speak with or find out if they are missing information. I work two jobs now, and as much as i would rather have Josh (The deceased father) back the money from ssi would he of great help. I just want… Read more »

lynn
Guest
lynn

if a child get money from a pension, does it get deducted from SSI?

Dee Gildon
Guest
Dee Gildon

I’m taking early retirement at age 62. The benefits for my biological 2 minor children are 50% each of my FULL retirement amout? Or 50% each of my EARLY retirement amount.

Tommie
Guest
Tommie

Ok Idk how to put this a friend of mine is raising his child and he is on ss and the mother gets the check because she has cousdy but the child lives with the dad and the mom’s don’t give the dad the money from the check what can he do to get the check

Azita Cooke
Guest
Azita Cooke

My husband started collecting social security benefit and our 7 year old will be receiving as well. How do I calculate housing for him? Divide our mortgage into the number of people in the household?
Same thing for groceries and so on?

Casaandra
Guest
Casaandra

My daughters father died two months ago and I am currently receiving survivor benefits of roughly $1000/month. Her older sister who is out of high school told me her younger brother who is 16 and a junior is applying for benefits as well. I am wondering if my payment gets decreased or if we both receive the same amount. He will only receive benefits for 18 months, but I already added that money into my monthly budget and can’t find it online anywhere. They say you get 150% of the first $1,131, but I just don’t understand

Heather Sposato
Guest

I applied for survivor benefits today..we were married and have an 8 year old son…we are a pretty easy app..no disabilities..no benefits ever collected by any of us..I work but fall well below the 17,000.00 mark..my husband was incarcerated for 4 years..died 3 months after his release from prison..so technically we lived apart..tho married..I honestly hope the full amount we qualified for monthly just goes to our son..because it’s cut n dty.. I think she said that her computer said only he qualified..but I didn’t want to seem pushy but I hope that’s the case…why complicate it by simply splitting… Read more »

Michael Stewart
Guest
Michael Stewart

I have a set of twins they are 18 months there mother passed away in her sleep and I applied for benefits I was wondering how long does it usually take for them to start receiving there benefits

Judy
Guest
Judy

My grandson lives with me and his dad passed away and his mother gets his check but she is in jail and has gave me power of attorney over him can I transfer his check into a account that is in mine and his name so that I can start receiving his check to get the things he needs