TN 29 (05-01)

GN 00305.001 Determining Family Status


Act--Section 216(h); Regulations No. 4--Section 404.344, 404.345; 404.354; 404.374

A. Policy — determining family status

1. General policy

Relationship may be established by State law or specific provisions of the Act. When the relationship of a spouse is involved, generally SSA applies the law of the appropriate State to determine whether the spouse would be considered such for purposes of the distribution of intestate personal property. The State of the worker's domicile determines which State law to apply.

2. Domicile

a. General policy

Use the table below to determine which State law to apply.

If the case is a . . .

Then apply the law . . .

life case

of the State where the worker is domiciled when the claimant files.

death case

that existed in the State where the worker was domiciled at the time of death.

b. Worker not domiciled in any state

If the worker was domiciled in a jurisdiction not defined in the Act as a State, apply the law which the courts of the District of Columbia apply.

c. Change of domicile

A domicile once established continues until a new one is acquired. To change a domicile a person must:

  • intend to make a home in the new place permanently or for an indefinite period; and

  • be physically present in the new place while having that intent.

NOTE: A member of the Armed Forces is presumed to keep the domicile he/she had when he/she entered the service.

d. Applicable state law

Use the rules in GN 00305.001A.2.a. and GN 00305.001A.2.b., unless otherwise indicated, in consulting the State Law Digest in GN 00306.405 GN 00306.680 to determine parent-child relationship. If, after consulting the precedent opinions in POMS Part 15 (PR) on PolicyNet, there is still doubt about which State law applies, follow the procedures in GN 01010.815 for possible submittal to the Regional Chief Counsel (RCC).

In applying the law of the State of the worker's domicile, it is often necessary to look to the law of the place where the relationship came into being. While the law of the State of domicile governs in determining relationship, that State may apply the law of the place where an event occurred in determining its validity.

3. State court decisions

In determining a family relationship under State law, SSA is not bound by a decision of a State trial court in a proceeding to which it was not a party. However, SSA must consider an adjudication of a State trial court in some situations. See SSR 83-37c, p.17 for the criteria involved.

B. Definitions — determining family status

1. State

State includes the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the U. S. Virgin Islands (beginning 9/1/50), Puerto Rico (beginning 1/1/51), Guam (beginning 1/1/61), American Samoa (beginning 1/1/61), and the Northern Mariana Islands (beginning 1/9/78).

2. Domicile

Domicile is the place where a person has his/her true, fixed, and permanent home to which he/she intends to return whenever away. Every person has a domicile and can only have one at a time.

3. Intestate

Intestate means to die without a legal will.

C. Procedure – determining family status

1. Developing questionable domicile

  1. Get all possible evidence.

  2. Get a complete statement regarding the worker's domicile and include the following points:

    • If the worker maintained homes in two jurisdictions, where did he/she spend the most time?

    • If the worker traveled constantly or moved often, where did the worker last have a permanent home?

    • What State did the worker regard as his/her home State?

    • Where did the worker say his/her home was? (Letters and/or oral statements may establish this.)

    • Where did the worker vote?

    • Where did the worker pay personal property, real property, and State income taxes?

    • Where did the worker's family live?

    • Where was the worker buried?

  3. Based on all information, make a determination on domicile.

  4. Apply the appropriate State law.