TN 27 (02-16)

GN 00210.004 Same-Sex Relationships - Non-Marital Legal Relationships

CITATIONS: Social Security Act 42 USC 216(h)(1)(A)(ii); 20 CFR 404.345

A. What is a non-marital legal relationship (NMLR)?

We use the term “NMLR” to describe a variety of legal relationships for two individuals who are not considered married, but are provided with some (or all) rights that could be associated with a marriage. Examples of NMLRs include but are not limited to the following:

  • civil union,

  • domestic partnership,

  • designated beneficiary, and

  • reciprocal beneficiary.

The Social Security Act authorizes us to consider the claimant to be the number holder (NH)’s spouse for benefit purposes when the state of the NH’s domicile would allow the claimant to inherit a spouse’s share of the NH's personal property should the NH died without leaving a will. Under these circumstances, we will treat the couple’s NMLR as a marital relationship for Title II and Medicare benefit purposes.

IMPORTANT: Because we do not consider all individuals in NMLRs married for benefit purposes, follow the instructions in this section closely.

1. When to use these instructions

This section contains policy and procedures for determining if the NMLR:

  • can be treated as a marital relationship for purposes of determining entitlement to Title II and Medicare benefits; and

  • meets the duration of marital relationship requirement.

NOTE: Use the instructions in this section only for same-sex couples. If the NMLR involves an opposite-sex couple, refer the claim for a legal opinion according to instructions in GN 01010.815

2. Title XVI aspects of concurrent claims

Use the instructions in GN 00210.800 to determine marital status.

B. When to request a legal opinion about a NMLR

Before you request a new legal opinion, check for an applicable precedent opinion in PR 05800.000.

Refer the claim for a legal opinion according to instructions in GN 01010.815 if any of following is true:

  • The NMLR was established in a state not listed in GN 00210.004D in this section.

  • The NMLR was established in a foreign jurisdiction.

  • Either member of the couple was previously in an NMLR, with someone other than his or her current spouse or NMLR partner, and there is no evidence that the prior NMLR was dissolved or terminated.

  • At the time of the NH’s death, the NH was not domiciled in the same state in which the relationship was established.

  • For a claim involving a living NH, the NH's domicile is outside of the state where the NMLR was established.

  • A legal opinion about duration of the NMLR is required. For more information about the need for a legal opinion concerning duration of marriage and NMLRs, refer to GN 00210.004E.2. in this section.

C. Determining that the NMLR is recognized for benefit purposes

To determine if a claimant’s NMLR is recognized for benefit purposes, you must determine that the NMLR:

  • was valid in the state where it was established, and

  • qualifies as a marital relationship using the laws of the state of the NH’s domicile or would allow the claimant to inherit a spouse’s share of the NH's personal property should the NH died without leaving a will.

When you are ready to process the claim as an award or denial, follow the instructions in GN 00210.020.

1. Was the NMLR valid in the state where it was established?

Follow these steps to determine the validity of the relationship using the laws of the state in which the relationship was established. For more information about how we determine family status, refer to GN 00305.001.

Step

Action

1

Is the claimant alleging an NMLR as the basis for entitlement to a benefit?

If yes, code the NMAR and BMAR screens with code “3-Other ceremonial,” and go to step 2.

If no, do not apply these instructions to evaluate the relationship. Refer to GN 00210.002 for policy related to establishing a marital relationship with the NH.

2

According to the chart in GN 00210.004D in this section, was the relationship established in a state listed under the column “State”?

If yes, go to step 3.

If no, check for an applicable precedent opinion in PR 05800.000. If no opinion exists, refer the claim for a legal opinion, according to instructions in GN 01010.815.

3

According to the chart in GN 00210.004D in this section, is the type of relationship alleged listed under the column “Relationship Type” for the state in which it was established?

If yes, go to step 4.

If no, check for an applicable precedent opinion in PR 05800.000. If no opinion exists, refer the claim for a legal opinion, according to instructions in GN 01010.815.

4

According to the chart in GN 00210.004D in this section, was the relationship established within the period shown in the column “Effective Date?”

If yes, go to step 5.

If no, check for an applicable precedent opinion in PR 05800.000. If no opinion exists, refer the claim for a legal opinion, according to instructions in GN 01010.815.

5

Obtain the information concerning the NMLR in the “Development” column and go to GN 00210.004C.2. in this subsection.

2. Does the NMLR qualify as a marital relationship using the laws of the state of the NH’s domicile?

We determine whether the NMLR qualifies as a marital relationship using the intestacy laws of the state of the NH’s domicile. If a claimant could inherit a spouse’s share of the NH's personal property should the NH die without leaving a will under state law, we will treat the couple’s relationship as a marital relationship for purposes of determining entitlement to benefits.

For life cases, use the NH’s state of domicile at the time of the application or while the application was pending.

For survivor benefits, use the NH’s state of domicile at the time of the NH’s death.

Step

Action

1

Determine the NH’s domicile using instructions in GN 00305.001.

Document the place of domicile (city or town, and state) on the RPOC screen.

NOTE: MCS screens do not capture the domicile of the NH. Do not rely on the mailing address or the "place of death" entry on the DECD screen.

Go to step 2.

2

Is the NH alive?

If yes, go to step 3.

If no, go to step 4.

3

Is the NH domiciled in the same state in which the relationship was established when the claimant filed the application or at any time during which the claim was pending a final determination?

If yes, go to step 5.

If no, go to step 6.

4

At the time of the NH’s death, was he or she domiciled in the same state in which the relationship was established?

If yes, go to step 5.

If no, go to step 6.

5

According to the chart in GN 00210.004D in this section, does the state in which the relationship was established show a “YES” in the column “Inheritance Rights”?

If yes, go to GN 00210.004E to determine duration in this section.

If no, treat the claimant as unmarried for benefit purposes.

6

Refer the claim for a legal opinion using instructions in GN 01010.815.

IMPORTANT: Check for an applicable precedent opinion in PR 05800.000 before requesting a new legal opinion.

D. State chart on NMLRs

Use the chart in this subsection to determine whether the listed state has a type of NMLR that conveys spousal inheritance rights.

1. State column

For purposes of this section, we define a state as:

  • one of the 50 United States,

  • the District of Columbia,

  • the U.S. Virgin Islands,

  • Puerto Rico,

  • Guam,

  • American Samoa, or

  • the Northern Mariana Islands.

2. Inheritance rights column

The “Inheritance Rights” column shows a “yes” or “no” as to whether the NMLR meets our requirements for recognition as a marital relationship because it conveys spousal inheritance rights.

3. Relationship type column

The “Relationship Type” column lists the only type(s) of NMLR that the state has established.

4. Development column

The “Development” column describes the information needed from the claimant to establish the relationship under state law.

5. Effective date column

The “Effective Date” column shows the date as of which the state began to permit the type of relationship or the period of time during which the type of relationship was permitted.

State

Relationship Type

Inheritance Rights

Development

Effective Date

AZ

Domestic partnership

No

N/A

N/A

AZ

Civil union

No

N/A

N/A

CA

Domestic partnership

Yes

Request the date the domestic partnership was entered into.

January 1, 2000

CO

Designated beneficiary

Yes, unless specifically excluded in the designated beneficiary agreement.

(1) Request the date the designated beneficiary agreement was signed, and

(2) ask if the right to inherit as each other’s spouse was specifically excluded in the agreement.

Accept the relationship if there is no exclusion of inheritance rights in the agreement. Do not accept the relationship if there is exclusion of inheritance rights in the agreement.

July 1, 2009

CO

Civil union

Yes

Request the date the civil union was entered into.

May 1, 2013

CT

Civil union

Yes

Request the date the civil union was entered into.

October 1, 2005 through October 1, 2010

DE

Civil union

Yes

Request the date the civil union was entered into.

January 1, 2012 through July 1, 2014

DC

Domestic partnership

Yes

Request the date the domestic partnership was registered.

January 26, 2006

HI

Reciprocal beneficiary

Yes

Request the date the certificate of reciprocal beneficiary was issued.

June 1, 1997 through December 2, 2013

HI

Civil union

Yes

Request the date the civil union was entered into.

January 1, 2012

IL

Civil union

Yes

Request the date the civil union was entered into.

June 1, 2011

ME

Domestic partnership

Yes

Request the date of the declaration of domestic partnership.

July 30, 2004

MD

Domestic partnership

No

N/A

N/A

MN

Domestic partnership (municipal)

No

N/A

N/A

NV

Domestic partnership

Yes

Request the date the domestic partnership was registered.

October 1, 2009

NH

Civil union

Yes

Request the date the civil union was entered into.

January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009

NJ

Domestic partnership

Yes

Request the date of the affidavit of domestic partnership.

July 10, 2004 through Feb 19, 2007

NJ

Civil union

Yes

Request the date the civil union was entered into.

February 19, 2007

NY

Domestic Partnership

No

N/A

N/A

OR

Domestic partnership

Yes

Request the date of the certificate of domestic partnership.

February 4, 2008

RI

Civil union

Yes

Request the date the civil union was entered into.

June 1, 2011 through August 1, 2013

VT

Civil union

Yes

Request the date the civil union was entered into.

July 1, 2000 through September 1, 2009

VT

Reciprocal beneficiary

No

N/A

N/A

WA

Domestic partnership

Yes

Request the date the domestic partnership was registered.

July 22, 2007

WI

Domestic partnership

Yes

Request the date of the declaration of domestic partnership.

August 3, 2009

E. Determining duration of the NMLR

When an NMLR qualifies as a marriage for benefit purposes, the “duration of marriage” requirement for the benefit must also be met by the NMLR. Do not use the date of the Windsor or Obergefell U.S. Supreme Court decision when determining duration of marriage. Use the date the couple entered into the NMLR.

1. Duration-of-marriage requirement

a. Spouse’s and surviving spouse’s benefits

A claimant for spouse’s benefits must meet a one-year duration-of-marriage requirement (refer to RS 00202.001). A claimant for surviving spouse’s benefits must meet a nine-month duration-of-marriage requirement (refer to GN 00305.100). For more information about duration-of-marriage requirements for spouse’s and surviving spouse’s benefits, refer to GN 00210.100 Marital Relationship Duration.

b. Child’s benefits based on stepchild relationship

The parent and stepparent of a child filing for stepchild benefits must meet the nine-month duration of marriage requirement if the NH is deceased, or the one-year duration requirement if the NH is living per GN 00306.230.

NOTE: If the nine-month duration requirement is not met for surviving stepchild benefits, determine if an alternative or exception to the duration requirement exists. For more information, refer to GN 00305.100 Marital Relationship Duration.

2. When to request a legal opinion about duration

If the NMLR, by itself, does not meet the duration requirement or any of the exceptions to the duration requirement, but the claimant and the NH entered into more than one NMLR or also entered into a marriage, an opinion may be needed.

A combination of NMLRs, or combination of NMLRs and marriages with the NH, may in total, meet the duration of marriage requirement without obtaining a legal opinion if (1) the relationships all occurred in the same state and (2) the relationships were consecutive without any gap in time between the relationships.

If no applicable precedent opinion exists in PR 05800.000 and the claimant alleges any of the following, request a legal opinion about duration using instructions in GN 01010.815:

  • The claimant and NH’s relationship began as an NMLR and later converted to a marriage. The legal opinion should address the duration of the NMLR, the date of the marriage, and the duration of the marriage;

  • The claimant had more than one NMLR with the NH which may, in total, meet the duration of marriage requirement, and the relationships were not all in the same state; or

  • The claimant and the NH had a combination of NMLR and marriage, which may, in total, meet the duration of marriage requirement.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200210004
GN 00210.004 - Non-Marital Legal Relationships (Such as Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships) - 01/26/2015
Batch run: 02/05/2016
Rev:02/05/2016