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Marital Status Types

Updated April 17, 2017

Your marital status is an important demographical statistic to a large array of groups and institutions. It usually affects your eligibility for government benefits as well as the taxes you are required to pay. It is an important consideration for providers of credit and insurance, and the marital statistics collected by the census is an important barometer of a society's values, perspectives and overall health. The US Census Bureau has five different types of marital status.

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For most purposes, married means a couple who are legally married. The US Census Bureau separates their married status into two parts: married, spouse present and married, spouse absent. Married, spouse present refers to a married couple living in the same household. Married, spouse absent refers to a married couple living apart for reasons other than marital discord, such as military service, work in another location, etc. The 2000 US census showed that 54 per cent of those counted who were over 15 years old were married.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) interprets the married status as a married couple living together either by ceremony or common law, or living apart but not divorced or legally separated. The IRS still considers a couple married if they have a decree of divorce that is not final at the end of the tax year.


Widowed refers to persons whose spouse has died and who have not remarried. The US IRS will allow a widow or widower to file their taxes as a married person filing jointly if their spouse died during the tax year. Divorce Peers report that 13.8 million people (11.2 million women and 2.6 million men) were counted as widowed in the 2000 US census.

Divorced or Separated

Divorced persons are those you have been married and have since obtained a legal decree of divorce. As mentioned in the section on marriage, the US IRS still considers a couple married if they have a divorce decree that is not final. For most purposes a separated person is one who was married and either has obtained a legal separation, who is living apart from his or her spouse for reasons of marital discord or who is seeking a divorce. The 2000 US census showed that 18.5 per cent of the people counted were widowed, divorced or separated.

Never Married or Single

The never married and single statuses will rarely appear on the same form even though they have different meanings. The never married status is self-defining and differs from single in that a single person may have been married before. The US IRS allows a person to file as single who is unmarried, divorced or legally separated on the last day of the tax year and who does not qualify for any other filing status. The 2000 US census showed that 27 per cent of those counted were never married.

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About the Author

Wayne Shirey is a senior control engineer with Southern Synergy who began writing nonfiction in 2007. His articles have appeared in several reference works, including "Great Events from History" and "The Encyclopedia of American Immigration." He holds a Bachelor of Science in engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

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