TN 29 (05-01)

GN 00305.050 More Than One Person Claiming to be Worker's Surviving Spouse

A. Policy — more than one person claiming to be worker's surviving spouse

1. General policy

When two claimants assert they are the legal surviving spouse, ascertain whether a divorce terminated the first marriage. The law of the worker's domicile at the time of death is pertinent to determining this. Both claimants must submit information which will enable SSA to assist them in obtaining evidence concerning dissolution of the former marriage.

2. Before rebutting the presumption of validity of the last marriage

The evidence must show that no divorce was obtained in any of the counties in which:

  • the worker lived, and

  • the residence requirements and court jurisdiction (venue) would have permitted a divorce action.

B. Procedure — more than one person claiming to be worker's surviving spouse

1. Evidence required of previous spouse

  1. Proof of the previous marriage;

  2. Statement describing the marital relationship between the spouse and the worker and why he/she knows or believes they were never divorced; Include the following:

    • how long the couple lived together;

    • number of children born of the marriage;

    • whether there were any periods of prolonged absence or separation and the cause of any such separation;

    • whether the spouse was served with notice of a divorce proceeding or otherwise received notice that the worker was trying to get a divorce; and

    • the places the worker lived from the date of separation from this spouse until the date of death and the dates for each place. If there are periods for which the spouse cannot furnish this information, the spouse must explain why.

  3. Written confirmation of the spouse's statement from persons likely to know the facts; Include the following:

    • The places the worker lived, and when, from the date of the marriage to the claimant until the date of death;

    • Any information they have about the possible termination of the marriage; and

    • The basis of their knowledge of the facts; and

  4. Statements from clerks of the courts where the worker may have obtained a divorce as to whether a divorce was obtained. (If a FO employee makes the search, his/her statement must be submitted.)

2. Evidence required of latest spouse

  1. A certified copy of the divorce decree dissolving the worker's prior marriage; or

  2. If a divorce decree is not available, get a statement including:

    • All information the spouse has about the worker's previous marriage, particularly as to when, where, and how the marriage was terminated;

    • The fact that the spouse has no information tending to contradict or discredit any statements furnished on his/her behalf and knows of no person having such information;

    • Places the worker lived during the time the spouse knew him/her including all places the worker lived, and when, after separation from the previous spouse; and

  3. Written statements from persons most likely to know (friends, relatives, employers, etc., of the worker) including:

    • The places the worker lived, and when, from the date of the marriage to the other spouse until the date of death;

    • Any information they have as to the worker's previous marriage and its termination; the basis for their knowledge of the facts; or

  4. If the claimant cannot furnish a copy of the divorce decree or statements required in b. and c., document why the claimant cannot comply.

3. Legal opinion/determination

If a legal opinion is needed, follow the procedures in GN 01010.800 for possible submittal to the RCC. Otherwise, make a determination as to who is the legal widow(er) and process the case accordingly.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200305050
GN 00305.050 - More Than One Person Claiming to be Worker's Survivin