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Four Rules to Know About Marital Status and Disability Benefits

Your marital status can affect your disability benefits and any disability benefits that your children receive from the federal government. Here are four rules each Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicant should know about the ways that marriage, divorce, and non-marital partnership can impact their potential benefits.

  1. Common Law Marriages Count for SSI

When you apply for SSI benefits for yourself or your child, you must disclose your marital status on the date you file your claim. In some cases, you’re considered to be married according to the Social Security Administration (SSA) when you have a non-marital relationship including a domestic partnership or a civil union.


In most cases, the SSA considers a couple who live together to have a bona fide marriage when the pair hold themselves out as husband and wife to their community, family, and friends. Unmarried, live-in couples who fail to disclose their living arrangements can be subject to additional interviews or questionnaires to determine one or both partners’ eligibility to receive SSI benefits.

Utah courts do not recognize common law marriage unless the couples or individuals actually petition the court to recognize their living arrangements as legitimate marriages.

Even if your partner dies or the relationship ends, you can still petition the courts in Utah for marriage recognition for a period of time. This court-affirmed marriage designation can affect future SSA benefits for yourself and your children.

  1. Marital Changes Affect Adult and Child SSI Benefits

SSI is a needs-based program. SSI benefit amounts are determined by your living arrangements and the total income of your household. After you start receiving SSI benefits for yourself or your child, you must report any changes in your marital status within 10 days of the changes.

If your spouse moves out or you remarry, your benefit amount can be increased or decreased based on the changes in your household income. The SSA requires you to report any additional or lost income due to marital-status changes when you receive SSI benefits.

Changes in marital status that you must report include the following:

  • Marriage
  • Separation
  • Divorce
  • Legal non-marital partnership
  • Incarceration of partner
  • Death of partner

Your child’s SSI benefits are impacted by changes in marital status, too. You must report any updated partnership changes in your child’s household. You child’s SSI benefit may decrease if your total household income is raised due to your partner’s earnings or your child’s partner’s earnings.

On the other hand, if your spouse doesn’t live with you anymore, their income is not counted to determine your eligibility for SSI benefits. Your total SSI payments and your child’s SSI benefits may be increased if the child’s other parent or step-parent leaves the home or dies.

  1. Marital Status Does Not Affect SSDI Eligibility

Unlike SSI, SSDI is not a needs-based benefit program. SSDI benefits are paid out to disabled persons after they have worked long enough to qualify for the benefits. Your benefit amount is based on an average of your past earnings.

You become eligible for SSDI after you’ve paid enough Social Security taxes to cover the cost of the insurance premiums. You must meet medical criteria to receive the benefits even if you’re fully insured by the SSDI program, but your marital status does not affect your eligibility to receive benefits.

Changes in your marital status or your spouse’s income will not affect the amount of your SSDI payments. You don’t have to report changes in either your marital status or your spouse’s earnings to continue receiving your full SSDI benefit amount.

  1. Same-Sex Couples Are Eligible for SSA Disability Benefits

The SSA recognizes same-sex marriages in all 50 states. In some cases, same-sex marriages and non-marital relationships recognized in foreign courts are recognized as legitimate marriages for the sake of disability benefit eligibility.

Same-sex couples in recognized marriages file their claims the same way all other married couples apply for benefits. There’s no special process for same-sex couples who have legal marriages or civil unions. Your attorney can help you collect the documentation you need to establish your marriage and file your disability claim if you need help understanding the process.

Social Security pays out a couple’s benefit to two married people when both partners qualify for SSI benefits whether the couple is in a same-sex or heterosexual marriage. The amount of your SSI couple’s benefit will be lower than the combined amount for two unmarried individuals.

Learn more about marital status and applying for Social Security Disability benefits in the Salt Lake City area by contacting Glen Cook Social Security Attorney today.

Our law office can help you receive your benefits no matter where you are in the disability claim process. We help clients throughout Utah with their SSI and SSDI claims, and we also handle disability claims for clients in certain areas of Wyoming and Colorado.