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Can Social Security use common law marriage both ways?

Fresno, CA |

I have been on SSI since I was 17. At a redetermination last year it was decided by SS that my bf and I are married because we have a child and my name is on the mortgage. I filed an appeal at that time, they claim to never have received it though my benefits were reinstated after I sent it in. There are many cases in CA of people trying to prove commonlaw to SS because SS doesn't want to pay benefits to widow/ers. I received a letter again that I'm withholding and demanding my 'husbands' personal info (other than mortgage, we own nothing in common and keep separate bills) in order to cut my benefits. It says on their own website that for commonlaw that they go by state law. When I told a worker on Friday that CA is not commonlaw, she told me they don't follow state law. What can I do?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. You should speak to a Social Security attorney who can help you file your appeal. I have changed the category for your question.

    THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE. They are provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. The answer to question does not create an attorney-client relationship or otherwise require further consultation. Mrs. Cook is licensed to practice law throughout the state of California with offices in San Diego County. She is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States, and is also licensed to practice before the United States Tax Court. IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, please be advised that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used or relied upon, and cannot be used or relied upon, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.


  2. It sounds as if the SSA claims representative made an initial decision that you and your boyfriend were "holding yourself out" as husband and wife to the community, and therefore could be deemed married for SSI purposes. Below is a link to the SSA POMS rule which allows SSA to consider you as married for SSI purposes even if you have not formally married under state law. Just having your name on the mortgage with your boyfriend would not be enough; SSA is required to look at a number of factors (and documents) to see if you identified yourself as a married couple. You may wish to gather documentation from the following to show you have not held yourselves out as married:
    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), Food Stamps, public housing, etc.;

    Magazine or newspaper subscription labels, personal mail;

    Statements from relatives, close friends, or neighbors.

    Here's the Link. Good luck.
    https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0500501152

    This answer contains general information only and is not legal advice. Use of the internet to contact our firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Please consult an attorney regarding the facts of your individual case. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time that an attorney-client relationship has been established.


  3. Many states no longer recognize CL marriage. So, if their decision is costing you benefits, you need to appeal or get a written letter verifying what is going on. What SSA tells you does not matter - all that counts is what is in writing.

    Then, talk to a Social Security lawyer in your area if you have any more questions.

    Best of luck to you.

    The exact answers to questions like this require more information than presented. The answer(s) provided should be considered general information. The information provided by this is general advice, and is not legal advice. Viewing this information is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. It is intended to educate the reader and a more definite answer should be based on a consultation with a lawyer. You should not take any action that might affect your claim without first seeking the professional opinion of an attorney. You should consult an attorney who can can ask all the appropriate questions and give legal advice based on the exact facts of your situation. The general information provided here does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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