TN 44 (09-13)
GN 00305.125 Void Marriages
Section 216(h)(1)(B) of the Social Security Act
A. Definition of void marriages
A void marriage is a marriage that is legally nonexistent from the beginning under state law. The parties to a void marriage are considered never to have been validly married. Therefore, a void marriage requires no formality to terminate. However, in some states, under certain circumstances, a court may issue an order affirming that a marriage is void (e.g., an annulment decree).
B. Policy for void marriages
1. Entitlement to benefits
A void marriage does not preclude initial entitlement to benefits of claimants who must not be married. If a court decree exists, the date of the decree is irrelevant to entitlement as the marriage never existed.
2. Administrative finality
A prior determination (e.g., disallowance or termination of benefits) based on a remarriage now determined void may be revised. The determination may be reopened as follows:
Within four years after the notice of disallowance or notice of termination of benefits if we receive new and material evidence is received.
If more than four years have elapsed since the notice of the initial determination that disallowed or terminated benefits, you may reopen the determination if one of the conditions on unrestricted reopenings referenced in GN 04020.001 exists.
If administrative finality stated GN 00305.125B.2.a. does not apply, the applicant needs to complete a new application for us to award benefits.
C. Procedure for void marriages
Determine whether the marriage was void or voidable (for guidance on when a marriage is voidable, see GN 00305.130) and process the case accordingly (for details on when an annulment permits initial entitlement or reentitlement, see GN 00305.135).
EXAMPLES: Void Marriage
In certain states, where one or both parties were under the age of consent, the marriage is void (for details, see GN 00305.010);
In most states, a bigamous marriage is void.
If neither instructions on state law nor a precedent opinion exists, route the claim to the Assistant Regional Commissioner (ARC) Management and Operations Support (MOS) for possible submittal to the regional chief counsel (RCC) per GN 01010.815. As guidance in making similar determinations, you may use legal precedent opinions on the validity of annulment in PR 06310.000. For details on when to use precedent opinions, see GN 01010.810.
Reinstate benefits previously terminated because of a marriage or remarriage that is determined to be void as of the month of the prior termination, subject to the rules of administrative finality.
REMINDERS: Under the laws of some states, a party to a void marriage may acquire inheritance rights as a spouse. This relationship is a putative marriage. A deemed marriage results when a claimant’s marriage to the insured would have been valid except for a legal impediment.