Your Relative with Special Needs Plans to Get Married. What Next?

Your Relative with Special Needs Plans to Get Married. What Next?

When you learn that your relative with special needs plans to get married, you probably have many questions about the future. Importantly, you should be concerned about whether your family member can continue to receive government benefits after marriage. If your relative relies on government benefits to cover expenses and pay for medical care, it may be a financial burden to get married because the benefits could end.

Disabled Adult Child Status

The Social Security Administration pays benefits to people with special needs that it grants “disabled adult child” status. To receive DAC status, your relative must:

  • Be unmarried
  • Be over age 18
  • Have special needs that started before age 22
  • Have special needs that meet the SSA definition of “disability” for adults
  • Have a deceased parent or a parent who is receiving retirement or disability benefits.

When someone has DAC status, he or she can receive benefits based on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. This record comes from the parent’s years of working and having Social Security taken out of their paychecks. The person with special needs does not have to work or have worked in the past. In fact, he or she cannot have earnings of more than $1,180 per month (in 2018) to qualify.

DAC status often leads to a greater amount of SSDI benefits per month than either SSI benefits or SSDI based on the person with special needs’ work record. This is because the parent often has a longer work record than the child with special needs.

Consequences of Marriage

If your relative with special needs already has DAC status and marries someone who also has DAC status, then Social Security benefits will not end for either of them. But if your relative does have DAC status and marries someone without it, your relative will lose his benefits based on his parent’s earnings record. He may still qualify for SSI. Or he may have a work record that qualifies him for SSDI, though the benefits may be less than he received before.

In addition, any income your relative’s new spouse earns or assets she has will count when the government assesses eligibility for benefits. Your relative could lose benefits because the spouse’s earnings put him above the income threshold for Social Security, Medicaid, or other services. Regardless of whether the new spouse has special needs, it may be a good idea to talk to his or her family about future planning.

Rubin Law is the only law firm in Illinois exclusively limited to providing compassionate special needs legal and future planning to guide our fellow Illinois families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental illness down the road to peace of mind. For more information, email us at or call 866-TO-RUBIN.