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Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at


2122. Marriage

2122.1 How does marriage affect SSI benefits?

Marriage helps determine whether:

  1. There is an eligible couple (rather than two eligible individuals);

  2. The rules for deeming income and resources apply if a spouse is not eligible (see §2167); or

  3. An individual under age 22 is a child who qualifies for special income exclusions.

2122.2 When are a man and woman considered married?

A man and woman are married for SSI purposes if:

  1. They are living in the same household and are married under the laws of their State;

  2. They are holding themselves out as husband and wife to the community in which they live; or

  3. One is entitled, as the spouse of the other, to Social Security benefits.

2122.3 When does SSA evaluate the existence of a marriage?

We generally evaluate the existence of a marriage as of the first day of a month. However, there are exceptions:

  1. If both members of an eligible couple file an application in the same month, we evaluate couple status for that month on the first day of the month following the date the application is filed; and

  2. If both members of a formerly eligible couple seek reinstatement as a couple in the same month, we evaluate couple status for that month as of the latest request for reinstatement.

2122.4 Who is considered the spouse if marriage status changes?

The spouse you were living with at the beginning of a month is your spouse for SSI purposes, regardless of changes later in the month. For example, a "holding-out" spouse with whom you are living takes precedence over a legally married spouse from whom you are separated.

Last Revised: March, 2001


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