How Does Marriage Affect Social Security Benefits?

by Aug 18, 2017

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If you are planning an upcoming wedding, you may wonder how marriage affects Social Security benefits. There are certain situations where both spouses can draw benefits.

The following sections provide a basic overview. For a more personalized review of your unique situation, you should speak to the qualified disability attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group. We can look at the details of your situation and offer our advice. Call 865-566-0800 today to schedule a free evaluation with one of our lawyers.

How will marriage affect my benefits?

Not all Social Security benefits provide the same assistance. Some give retirement income to workers over a certain age. Others provide income replacement for workers who become disabled before retirement. There are also benefits for the poor and disabled.

The three main types of Social Security benefits are as follows.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

This disability program is for people who have worked and paid into the Social Security system through their payroll taxes. You need proof of a qualifying medical condition in addition to a sufficient work history for this program.

Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI)

This program is need-based. To receive SSI benefits, you must have a qualifying disability as well as a household income below a certain amount. There are also limits on how much your household can have in assets.


This is regular retirement income for which every worker is eligible beginning at age 62. However, the longer you wait to take it—up to age 70—the larger monthly benefit amount you receive.

How will my marriage affect my SSDI benefits?

Because payroll taxes fund the SSDI program, eligibility depends on having a sufficient work history. In some situations, however, that work history does not have to be your own. If you have a qualifying disability, you might be able to receive benefits based on the work history of a parent or spouse.

Getting married may or may not affect your SSDI benefits. It all depends on whose work record is providing your benefits.

Your Own Work Record

If you qualify for SSDI benefits based on your own record, getting married does not affect your benefits in any way. This is true regardless of your spouse’s income or disability status.

Your Parents’ Work Record

If your parents’ work record provides your eligibility for SSDI, you will lose your benefits upon getting married.

There is one exception. If you are an adult disabled child who marries another adult disabled child receiving SSDI benefits from their parents, both of you might be able to keep your respective benefits. Talk to one of our attorneys about your specific case.

Your Ex-Spouse’s Work Record

If you receive SSDI benefits from your ex-spouse’s work record, you will stop receiving benefits upon marrying a new spouse.

Your Deceased Ex-Spouse’s Work Record

If you receive benefits from a deceased ex-spouse, you will lose those benefits if you get remarried before the age of 50—or the age of 60 if you are not disabled yourself.

Does marriage affect SSI benefits?

As SSI is an income-based program, the effect of marriage on benefits is more complex. If your spouse receives no income, your benefits should not change. However, if your spouse contributes income to the household—even if that income comes from SSI or another government program—you both risk a reduction in your benefits, as your combined income could easily put you above the threshold.

If you receive SSI benefits, you should speak to one of our disability attorneys before your marriage. We can advise you on how to move forward in a way that maximizes your benefits and those of your future spouse.

Retirement Benefits and Marriage

The effects of marriage on traditional retirement benefits are the most complicated of all. To summarize, you have a few choices on how to continue receiving benefits:

  • You can elect to keep receiving your own benefits and your spouse may do the same;
  • You can terminate your own benefits in favor of spousal benefits; or
  • Your spouse can terminate their benefits and receive spousal benefits under you.

The best option to choose is the one that results in the biggest overall benefit amount. We can help you figure out which option will earn you the largest monthly payment.

Call 865-566-0800 to talk to a qualified disability attorney.

Have questions? Our attorneys are here to advise you. Call the Disability Advantage Group, today at 865-566-0800 to set up a consultation—for free.