Understanding what to expect with a Social Security attorney

People who collect Social Security Disability benefits know that many factors help determine eligibility for benefits. However, marriage is one factor that many beneficiaries in Illinois may overlook. As any Social Security attorney can confirm, marriage sometimes provides grounds for benefit loss. In other cases, marriage has no impact on SSD benefits.

Personal benefits

Marriage does not affect a direct beneficiary’s eligibility for benefits. Eligibility is based on a person’s past earnings, medical condition and ability to work. Need, family earnings and marital status are irrelevant.

Beneficiaries who marry other beneficiaries may actually become entitled to greater benefits. The Social Security Administration awards spouse’s benefits worth up to half of a direct recipient’s benefit. A beneficiary with low past earnings may be eligible for a greater benefit based on a new spouse’s earnings.

Dependent benefits

People who collect benefits based on another beneficiary’s earnings may lose their benefits if they marry. Marriage can be decisive for the following dependents:

  • Ex-spouses — ex-spouses lose their existing benefits if they remarry.
  • Widows or widowers — survivors benefits may cease if a widow or widower remarries.
  • Children — minor children lose their dependent benefits if they marry. Generally, disabled adult children also lose their benefits upon marriage.

Like direct beneficiaries, dependents may be entitled to new, greater benefits if they marry current beneficiaries. Furthermore, as any Social Security attorney understands, marriage does not always lead to termination of a person’s benefits. There are special circumstances in which disabled children, ex-spouses and surviving spouses may keep their benefits despite marriage.

Special exceptions

Surviving spouses may maintain benefits if they marry at older ages. After age 60, marriage does not affect a widow or widower’s eligibility for benefits. Disabled surviving spouses may remarry after age 50 without losing their benefits. These spouses must meet the strict SSA definition of disabled.

Disabled adult children may keep their benefits if they marry other disabled adult children who collect benefits. A disabled adult child is an adult who collects benefits based on a parent’s earnings. To qualify as a disabled adult child, an individual must suffer from a disability that began before age 18.

Finally, although ex-spouses lose benefits when they remarry, they may resume collecting benefits under certain circumstances. If the new marriage ends in annulment, divorce or death, the ex-spouse may start receiving ex-spouse’s benefits again. However, the ex-spouse must not be entitled to a larger benefit based on the earnings of the most recent spouse.

Maintaining benefits

People with concerns about benefit eligibility after marriage should consider speaking to a Social Security attorney. An attorney may be able to explain the relevant rules and the availability of new benefits.