In today’s complicated world, there are many cases where a grandparent is the primary person responsible for a minor grandchild. The reasons are far and wide; regardless, many times the primary support for a minor child comes from an grandparent. If the grandparent in question is receiving Social Security benefits, can a grandchild also get Social Security?
After all, we know that the minor child of a parent who is receiving Social Security benefits may be eligible for child’s benefits, so why would it be any different with a grandparent?
The primary difference is in the relationship. The Social Security rules are written specifically to provide benefits for a minor child of a Social Security recipient. And the minor child (under age 18 or under age 19 while still in high school, or disabled) must either be
- the natural (biological) child of the parent
- the adopted child of the parent
- the stepchild of the parent
In the case of a grandchild, unless the grandparent has taken the extra step to legally adopt the grandchild, the child we’re referring to here does not fit any of those descriptions. However, depending on the reason that the grandparent is the primary support for the child, there may be benefits available.
In addition, the minor child in question must be receiving at least half support from the grandparent, and must reside with the grandparent.
If adoption is not in order, the reason why the parent is not in the picture for support and care is important. If the parent is unable, physically or mentally, to care for the child, then the parent might be considered disabled for Social Security purposes, for example. This could open the door for the parent to receive Social Security Disability benefits (potentially making benefits available to the child). Otherwise, the grandchild could become eligible for benefits on the grandparent’s record.
The grandparent may become the de facto guardian of the minor child in the case of the death or disability of the parent, but in those cases the parent’s own record would provide for either survivor benefits or child’s benefits (in the case of disability of the parent).
The definitive way to resolve this is for the grandparent to adopt the grandchild. This would qualify the minor child for benefits based on the grandparent’s record, for certain, with no questions.
However, if the parent of the child is either disabled or deceased, the child may also become eligible for benefits based on the grandparents’ record, as long as the support and residence requirements are met. This eligibility will be weighed against benefits that the child may be eligible for based on his or her own parents’ record(s) (the record of the child of the grandparent).
The best way to resolve this is to consult Social Security about your situation. It’s very possible that a minor grandchild could be eligible for benefits based on your Social Security record, but Social Security will have to make the final determination for you.