Holding Out As a Married Couple (SSI Regulations)

If you receive SSI and you live with another person, sometimes Social Security will ask questions to see if this arrangement is similar to a marriage. This is called “holding out as married.”

Here’s where you can find the full text of the policy: SI 00501.152 Determining Whether Two Individuals Are Holding Themselves Out as a Married Couple. This policy is not well known, and most people have never heard of it until/unless they run into a problem.

These rules can have a big impact on someone’s Social Security check. In some cases, they can mean someone’s check is reduced or eliminated.

Do These Rules Apply to Me?

SSI – Yes. If you are on SSI, or applying for SSI, these rules apply to you.

SSDI – No. If you are on SSDI, these rules will not apply to you.

Disabled Adult Child Benefits – Maybe. The regulations state that these rules are only for SSI. However we have heard reports that some Social Security employees are applying these rules to Disabled Adult Child benefit cases as well. If this happens, you might have grounds to appeal.

Huh? – If you don’t know the difference, look here: What’s SSI and SSDI? and What’s Disabled Adult Child Benefits?If you are already on benefits:  What am I on?


These rules only count if you live together. If you do not live with the other person, they will not consider you holding out as married.

How Will They Decide if I am “Holding Out as Married”?

Social Security has a list of questions they ask to decide if two people are holding out as married. Someone from Social Security may ask you these questions during an SSI interview, or sometimes people are asked these questions while calling or visiting Social Security for other reasons. Our readers report that different staff members handle this in different ways:

  • Some staff ask many detailed questions.
  • Some staff ask you to sign a statement about your living circumstances.
  • Some ask only one question, “Are you living with anyone you consider yourself married to?”
  • Some do not ask any questions on this topic

Sample Questions

Here’s a copy of the official SSA policy: SI 00501.152 Determining Whether Two Individuals Are Holding Themselves Out as a Married Couple

Examples of questions maybe asked:

  • 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?
  • “Other questions if you think that will help clarify how the individuals present themselves to the community.”

What Happens Next?

After asking you questions, they will make a decision.

According to the policy if the “Individual denies holding out as married and there is no evidence to the contrary,” then the staff member will decide that the two people are not holding out as married. This generally happens very quickly, and the worker simply moves on to other topics in the interview.

On the other hand, if the staff member finds that there is a possibility that your situation might be considered holding out as married, then they might take more steps to look into this.

For example, they may request a signed statement from the other person. It is also possible that they may examine documents, such as bank records, mail, and financial documents to see if you and the other person share accounts or are represented as a married couple on any documents.

According to the policies, Social Security can also talk to your friends, family or neighbors to ask if you represent yourself as married (We have never heard from anyone this has actually happened to).

What Happens If They Decide We Are Holding Out As Married?

If Social Security decides that your situation is “holding out as married” they will treat your case as a married couple, and count all income and resources from both people.

If the other person has income or assets, this could mean that your SSI check is greatly reduced or eliminated.

If the other person has little or no income or assets, it may have no impact on your SSI check.

SSA Form

In some situations, here is a form that may be used: Statement of Marital Arrangement. Example questions:

  • “When did you begin living together in a husband and wife relationship?”
  • “Where have you lived together as husband and wife for what periods of time?”

Many of the questions on this form assume you are acting as a married couple. Be careful before answering any questions, never write anything untrue on a form, and never sign anything that is not completely accurate.

Same Sex Couples

Although the form above uses the words “husband and wife”, these regulations can also be applied to gay and lesbian couple, now that gay and lesbian marriage is legally recognized.

What Happens If Social Security Decides We Are NOT Holding Out As Married?

If Social Security decides that your situation is not “holding out as married” then they will not consider the other person’s income or finances, and your case will be processed as a single person.

If you are living with someone and you are not married and not holding out as married, then it is a really good idea to learn the rent rules. How much rent you pay can impact your SSI check: How Much Rent to Pay on SSI

In most situations, living with other people will have no impact on your check, but there are a few exceptions. You can learn about this here: “I Live With Other People. Does Their Money Affect My SSI?”

No Longer Holding Out As Married

If you were holding out as married in the past, but your situation has now changed, you can request a new SSI appointment to review your current situation. Here’s an example from the Social Security policy in the link above:

“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.”

No Longer Living Together

If you stop living together, be sure to notify Social Security. Contact them and ask for an appointment or phone appointment to with your SSI worker to have your SSI check redetermined. It may be helpful to show proof you are no longer living together (lease, utility bills, etc).

If you stop living together, you will no longer be considered “holding out as married” and the other person’s income will not impact your check. However, if they pay part of your rent or utilities or give you money, this would still impact.


If you disagree with the decision, you can request reconsideration. It may be helpful to include written answers to the holding out as married questions and/or signed statements from yourself or others who can verify the facts of your situation. If the request for reconsideration is denied, you can request a hearing appeal.

Learn More

If you are applying for SSI: How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand

More questions that may come up during your interview: How to Handle an SSI Interview (PERC)


1 thought on “Holding Out As a Married Couple (SSI Regulations)”

  1. When I was applying, the lady seemed bound and determined to find me holding out as married. I wasn’t- I had 2 roommates and wasn’t in a relationship with either of them- but she kept trying to find some evidence that we were


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