Can I get survivor benefits if we never married?


Q. I’ve been with my significant other for over 24 years. We have a 19-year-old son. Would I be able to qualify for Social Security benefits if he passes?
— Partner

A. Given that you’ve never married, your options will be limited.

In New Jersey, in order to qualify for federal Social Security benefits as a survivor, you must qualify as eligible to receive spousal benefits according to New Jersey state law, said Amber Leach, a certified divorce financial analyst with AXA Advisors/R.I.C.H. Planning Group in Morristown.

Unlike in other states, New Jersey doesn’t recognize common law marriage.

“However, if you have a domestic partnership in place, the New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act may work in your favor and you may have a claim,” she said. “Outside of having a marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership, your rights are limited.”

You can learn more about benefits for surviving domestic partners in New Jersey here.

Even if you do not qualify to receive Social Security benefits for survivors, your 19-year-old son might.

“If he is still in high school – not past 12th grade – then your son could receive benefits until he graduates,” Leach said. “This assumes your partner passes this year and has paid enough into Social Security.”

If your son has a disability then he could receive benefits after age 19, Leach said. You can learn more about that here.

To determine your rights with Social Security, we recommend you visit a local Social Security office. You can find one here. 

Email your questions to .

This story was originally published on Oct. 30, 2019. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.