TN 49 (02-16)
SI 00501.152 Determining Whether Two Individuals Are Holding Themselves Out as a Married Couple
A. When to use these instructions to determine whether two individuals are holding themselves out as a married couple
Use these instructions to determine whether two individuals who live in the same household are considered married for supplemental security income (SSI) purposes because they hold themselves out as a married couple to the community in which they live.
The instructions in this section also apply to same-sex couples. For more information about same-sex couples, see GN 00210.800 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Same-Sex Marriages and Same-Sex Couples.
B. When not to develop for holding out
Do not ask about holding out if there is an obvious reason for the individuals to live in the same household, other than as a couple. The following are examples.
They are in a family relationship (e.g., siblings).
They have an employer-employee relationship such as for housekeeping or child care.
Their household arrangement is only for the purpose of sharing expenses.
C. Determining whether two individuals are holding themselves out as a married couple
1. Treatment of allegations
Obtain a signed statement as to whether the individuals hold themselves out to the community as a married couple. Treat the allegation in the statement as follows:
a. Individual denies holding out as married, no evidence to the contrary
Accept the allegation.
b. Individual alleges holding out as married
Obtain a signed statement from the other individual. If both allege holding out, accept the allegation.
c. Either individual denies holding out as a married couple, evidence to the contrary
Obtain the signed responses of both individuals to the following questions. You may use Form SSA-4178, Marital Relationship Questionnaire, provided in SI 00501.153:
By what name or names are you known?
How do you introduce the other person to friends, relatives, or others?
How is mail addressed to you and to the other person?
Are there any bills, installment contracts, tax returns, or other papers showing you as spouses?
Is the place where you live owned or rented by both of you or only one?
Ask other questions if you think that will help clarify how the individuals present themselves to the community.
2. Holding out not indicated
Stop development if all the responses of both individuals show that neither presents the relationship as a marital one.
3. Responses indicate possible holding out
If one or more of the answers by either individual indicate the possibility of a holding out relationship, obtain as many of the following items of evidence (listed in order of probative value) as possible and make a written determination.
Mortgages, leases, property deeds, bank accounts, insurance policies, passports, tax returns, credit cards.
Information (preferably documents) from other government programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), public housing, etc.
Magazine or newspaper subscription labels, personal mail.
Statements from relatives, close friends, or neighbors.
4. Holding out determination
In order for the agency to make a written determination that two individuals are holding themselves out as a married couple, consider the following:
The age and probative value of the evidence.
The role the individuals played in creating the evidence (e.g., signing a lease as a married couple).
The individuals' explanation regarding evidence that indicates holding out.
5. Case Code (CG) entry
If a holding out relationship exists, enter CG field entry code ML11. For more information about CG codes, refer to SM 01005.525 and SM 01301.820.
1. No holding out alleged; evidence to the contrary; holding out not established
Michael Stevens and Barbara Foster deny any marital relationship but also indicate that they rent an apartment together. The field office (FO) obtains an SSA-4178 (Marital Relationship Questionnaire).
The information shows that, although they share activities, they live together for economic reasons. They supply their bank statements, which show they do not have joint accounts.
The FO decides that the evidence, the responses on the SSA-4178, and the explanation about the information on the rental of the apartment support the no holding out allegation.
2. No holding out alleged; evidence to the contrary; holding out established
When Kathryn Simms applies for SSI benefits in August 2015, she indicates that she is unmarried. Karen Anders, an unrelated adult, lives in the same household. The property tax records and mortgage for the home are in Ms. Simms' name.
The FO learns from a field contact that the neighbors refer to Ms. Anders and Ms. Simms as a married couple. The FO develops following the procedure in SI 00501.152C.1.c. in this section. Ms. Simms admits that she does not correct the neighbors when they refer to them as spouses.
The responses on the SSA-4178 indicate that Ms. Anders and Ms. Simms filed tax returns as “married filing jointly.” They also share the same charge accounts. Based on this information and the available evidence, the FO decides that they are holding themselves out to the community as a married couple.
3. Mixed allegations; no holding out
Steve Garrett and Betty Sanders each receive SSI as eligible individuals. When they move in together, they report the change in their living arrangements.
At the redetermination, Mr. Garrett signs a statement that they hold themselves out to the community as a married couple and plan to be married. When contacted, Ms. Sanders states she does not present their relationship to the community as that of a married couple and will not do so until they are married. Their apartment rental lease shows both names. There is no other information or evidence that indicates Ms. Sanders presents their relationship as that of a married couple.
Since only one of the individuals presents the relationship to the community as that of a married couple, the FO decides there is no holding out and continues to treat them as two eligible individuals.
4. Holding out relationship ends; couple remain in the same household; no holding out
Alex Mathis and Alice Blake have lived together and held themselves out to the community as a married couple for 15 years. Mr. Mathis receives SSI benefits; Ms. Blake works. We deem Ms. Blake's income to Mr. Mathis.
Mr. Mathis contacts the teleservice center in June and reports that he no longer considers Ms. Blake to be his wife and wants his full SSI payment. He adds that he has met someone else but is temporarily remaining with Ms. Blake for financial reasons. The FO contacts Ms. Blake, who states that Mr. Mathis is living in the basement of the house and will move out as soon as he is financially able. Ms. Blake provides evidence that they dissolved all joint credit accounts. Based on this information, the FO determines that they are no longer holding out as married.