TN 46 (05-12)

SI 00501.150 Determining Whether a Marital Relationship Exists


Social Security Act §1614(b) and §1614(d)

Regulations 20 CFR 416.1801 through 416.1835

A. Marital relationship for supplemental security income (SSI) purposes

Whether a man and woman are married for SSI purposes governs whether:

  • Couple computation rules apply, see SI 00501.154 Determining When Couple Computation Rules Apply; and/or

  • Spousal or parental deeming applies, see SI 01310.000 Deeming.

NOTE: Someone who is married cannot be a child for SSI purposes, see SI 00501.010, Definition of Child.

B. Policy for marital relationships

1. Marital relationship criteria

For SSI purposes, a marital relationship is one in which members of the opposite sex are:

  • Legally married under the laws of the State where they have their permanent home; or

  • Married for title II purposes; or

  • Living together in the same household and holding themselves out as husband and wife to the community in which they live, see SI 00501.152, Holding Out.

NOTE: For transgender issues, refer to GN 00305.005B.4.

2. Members resume living together

A marital relationship also includes a man and a woman who resume living together after having lived together previously as husband and wife.

We presume the man and woman to be in a marital relationship unless the parties present evidence to the contrary. Evidence to the contrary includes evidence of a divorce or the termination of a holding out relationship. For example, if a divorced couple resumed living together due to illness or for economic reasons with no intention of resuming a marital relationship, this represents evidence to the contrary.

A man and woman who are still legally married and resume living together after having lived apart, is a married couple for SSI purposes, regardless of the reason for having resumed living together.

EXAMPLE: Mr. and Mrs. Stuart divorced several years ago. Recently, Ms. Stuart became ill and Mr. Stuart, who is an SSI recipient, moved to her home to care for her. He advised the social security office of his change of address. Ms. Stuart filed for SSI benefits shortly after Mr. Stuart moved to her home.

Upon filing a claim, she informed the claims representative (CR) of her divorce and the current living arrangement. Even though the parties are divorced, the CR developed for a possible holding out relationship per the instructions in SI 00501.152. Because both did not present themselves in a marital relationship in the community, Ms. Stuart is an eligible individual.

3. When the marital relationship applies

For SSI purposes, a man and woman are married for a month if they meet any of the criteria in SI 00501.150B.1. or SI 00501.150B.2. (in this section) as of the first moment of the month except for members of a couple who are both eligible and apply or request reinstatement in the same month.

For an explanation of this exception, see SI 00501.154A.2.

4. Determining who is the SSI spouse

If the criteria in SI 00501.150B.1. (in this section) would mean that more than one person could be an individual's spouse for SSI purposes, consider the spouse to be the person with whom the individual is living as husband or wife on the first day of the month. It is not material that another person may qualify as the legal spouse of either of the persons living together.

5. When a marital relationship ends

A man and woman are no longer married for SSI purposes as of the date that:

  • Either dies;

  • They receive an issuance of a final decree of annulment or divorce;

  • Either begins living with another as that person's spouse;

  • They are determined not to be married for title II purposes, and we used the title II marital determination for title XVI; or

  • They begin living in separate households, if they were determined to be married for SSI purposes because they were holding themselves out as husband and wife.

If they allege the end of the holding out relationship, but they remain in the same household, follow the instructions in SI 00501.152D.4.

If a marital relationship ends by death, divorce, or annulment in the same month it began, treat the marriage as if it had never existed. Otherwise, the termination of marriage is effective the month after the month of death, divorce, or annulment.

C. Procedures to determine marital relationship

1. How to treat an allegation of marriage

Accept an individual's allegation that he or she is married unless:

  • We would consider the individual a child for SSI purposes; or

  • There is evidence to the contrary; or

  • The allegation could be self-serving.

If any of the conditions above exist, request evidence of marriage as described in SI 00501.150C.2. (in this section).

2. Members resume living together

If a man and woman who previously lived together as husband and wife resume living together, review the facts of the case to make a new marital relationship determination, if necessary.

  1. Couple Divorced - If members allege they are divorced:

    • Obtain a copy of the divorce decree.

    • Obtain signed statements from both parties explaining why they are living together (e.g., illness, economic reasons) and whether they hold themselves out to the community as husband and wife.

  2. Couple Legally Separated - Treat the parties as a couple since a legal marriage still exists.

  3. Former Holding out Couple - Follow the procedures in SI 00501.152.

3. Evidence of marriage

a. State law

Follow the appropriate instructions in GN 00305.000.

b. Title II determination

Document the file with a current title II query showing the entitlement of one couple member to spouse's benefits on the record of the other.

c. Holding out

Follow the instructions in SI 00501.152 if a man and woman live in the same household and do not allege being married.

4. Evidence of termination of marriage

a. Death, divorce, annulment

Document the file with proof of the event or an explanation of why such proof is not available.

b. Living with different spouse

Document the file with whatever information is relevant.

c. Change in Title II “Deemed Spouse” Determination

Document the file with a copy of the title II termination notice or MBR query showing the deemed spouse's ledger account file (LAF) code, if something indicates that we reversed a prior “deemed spouse” determination.

d. No Longer Holding Out

Develop per SI 00501.152B.3. and SI 00501.152B.4., if either or both couple members allege that they are no longer husband and wife.

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SI 00501.150 - Determining Whether a Marital Relationship Exists - 05/25/2012
Batch run: 05/25/2012