Q. My former husband is very ill. If he dies, what Social Security Benefits may our two children be entitled to?

Social security benefits may be paid to children when one parent becomes disabled, retires, or dies. To be eligible, the child must be the contributing spouse's biological child, adopted child, stepchild, or a dependent grandchild and under the age of 18 or, if still in high school, under the age of 19 (unless the child is disabled).

The child must have one parent who is disabled or retired and entitled to SS benefits or have a parent who died after having worked long enough to have themselves qualify for benefits. A child may receive up to one-half of the contributor's retirement or disability benefits, or 75 % of the deceased parent's basic Social Security benefit (up to a family maximum).

If a stepchild is receiving benefits, and the contributing spouse divorces the child's parent, the stepchild's benefits will end the month after the divorce becomes final.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits based upon disability. These benefits depend upon prior work and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Disability benefits may be paid, if there are sufficient work credits, to blind or disabled workers, widows and widowers, or adults who have been disabled since childhood who are otherwise not eligible to qualify for benefits. The amount of the monthly benefit depends upon the Social Security earnings record of the worker.

SSI payments are based upon financial need to adults or children who are disabled or blind, have limited income and resources, meet certain living arrangement requirements, and who are otherwise eligible. Monthly benefits vary up to a maximum federal benefit rate, which is sometimes supplemented by the state.

Need more information about Social Security and support obligations?

Thurman W. Arnold III