Ask Web2021-07-12T23:58:36-04:00

Ask Web

2005, 2021

My ex-husband and I were married for 9 years we share custody of our 7 year old son.

Yes.  Your son will be eligible for a child’s benefit on your late former husband’s Social Security record.  Generally, he will remain eligible for child’s benefits until he reaches age 18 (19 if he is still attending a secondary school at that age).  You should apply with the Social Security Administration on your son’s behalf as soon as possible.  At the same time, you will want to apply to serve as his representative payee. Such an application will enable Social Security to pay your son’s benefits to you on his behalf.

2005, 2021

I took 5 years off from working full-time to raise my child.

Answer:  The answer to your question depends on whether you will have more than five years with very few or no earnings.  If you have only five, then the effect on your benefit should be slight at most.  The reason for this is that in calculating a Social Security retirement benefit, the Social Security Administration considers only the 35 highest years during your working history.  That said, you will want to make sure you consistently work in covered earnings for the remainder of your career to avoid seeing your Social Security benefit reduced because of years in your computation that contain no earnings or very little earnings.

2304, 2021

I have been of the belief that Social Security benefits are determined by taking the average income of all the years of employment.

Monthly Social Security benefits are determined on average monthly earnings over 35 years. When a benefit application is filed, the Social Security Administration indexes lifetime earnings to bring them up to date. The highest 35 years of earnings are selected and averaged to determine the monthly benefit. If a worker has more than 35 years of earnings, excess lower-earning years are disregarded. If the worker has fewer than 35 years of earnings, some zero income years are included in the calculation.

1704, 2019

Can I receive benefits on my former husband’s record, even though he is still working?

As long as your marriage lasted 10 consecutive years and you are still unmarried, you can qualify for a divorced spouse’s benefit on your former husband’s record at any time after reaching age 62. The fact that your husband hasn’t started receiving Social Security benefits doesn’t matter if he is at least age 62 and your divorce has been final for at least two years.

Our Expert Answers Your Retirement Security Questions

Webster Phillips, Senior Policy AnalystFor nearly 35 years, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has helped thousands of workers and retirees with a broad range of concerns on Social Security including when to file a claim, disability, spousal or survivor benefits or how the monthly payments are calculated.

Answering your questions is Webster Phillips, a Senior Policy Analyst for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare for more than a decade, specializing in the Social Security program.  Members of Congress and their staffs routinely turn to him for technical advice on Social Security.  Web previously had a 31 year career at the Social Security Administration, beginning as a claims representative and later as a supervisor at Social Security offices in Illinois. In 1983, Web was selected as a management intern, and began a series of progressively more responsible assignments at the Agency’s headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.  Web’s extensive knowledge of the Social Security program and his experience with the legislative process continues to provide current and future retirees with the most informed and comprehensive answers to their Social Security questions.

If you have a question about current or future benefits for yourself or a family member, please use this form. To ensure that Web can send a personal response to your question, please make sure that you have entered your email address correctly. Due to the volume of inquiries, please allow 5-7 business days for a response.

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