TN 7 (01-12)

RS 01301.020 Considering the Period in Determining Support for Stepchildren

A. Policy on period of support for stepchildren

1. Determining support period

To determine if the one half-support requirement is met at the applicable point in time (dependency point), we look at the stepchild’s support picture for a “reasonable period before that time. Although “time at which support requirement must be met” means the date of an event shown in the chart in GN 00306.009, the facts relating to the claimant's total support for a reasonable period before such date are considered in determining whether the support requirement is met.

If there are no changes in circumstances related to the claimant’s support picture, then use a 12 month period. See RS 01301.020B (in this section). When there are changes in circumstances, a period less than 12 months may be appropriate. In such cases, first determine whether there are untoward circumstances present. If there are untoward circumstances, then apply the rules and instructions set forth in RS 01301.020C (in this section). If there are not untoward circumstances, then apply the rules set forth in RS 01301.020D (in this section).

NOTE: The only category of child's benefits that RS 01301.020B, RS 01301.020C, and RS 01301.020D (in this section) apply to is a stepchild.

2. The role of the SSA–760-F4 (Certificate of Support)

All information obtained on the SSA-760-F4 will determine whether the “other reasonable period” rule or the “untoward circumstances” rule may apply for a spouse or a parent. See information on one-half support—evidence needed in RS 01301.140.

3. The role of the SSA-783 (Statement Regarding Contributions)

All information obtained on the SSA-783 will determine whether the rules on “other reasonable period” or untoward circumstance apply for a child.

NOTE: The only category of child's benefits that RS 01301.020B, RS 01301.020C, and RS 01301.020D (in this section) apply to is a stepchild.

B. Policy on twelve months as reasonable period

1. General information on the 12–month rule

A claimant meets the support requirement at the pertinent time if, during the 12-month period immediately preceding that time, the NH regularly contributed at least one-half the claimant’s whole support without a break.

Usually, the reasonable period is the 12-month period immediately preceding the month of the dependency point; the period is calculated using calendar months. For example, if the dependency point is the NH's onset of disability in September 2010, the 12-month period is September 2009 through August 2010.

CAUTION: In a life case, apply the rules on child’s benefits first month of entitlement in life cases requirement in RS 00203.010C.2.d. If we find the child to have been receiving one-half support at the time the application was filed, we will deem them to have been receiving one-half support throughout the month of filing unless there is an indication that the support situation has changed before filing or is expected to change in that month.

2. No contributions during 12-month period

It is unrealistic to find one-half support if the NH does not contribute anything during the 12-month period.

C. Policy on reasonable period where untoward circumstances exist

1. Definition of untoward circumstances

Untoward circumstances mean a change in circumstances caused by events beyond the NH's control that cause the NH to stop or significantly reduce his contributions to the child (e.g., poor health or unemployment which cause a negative impact on the one-half support determination).

Caution: Never use untoward circumstances if the date of filing is the dependency point in a life case.

2. Meeting the one-half support requirement when there are untoward circumstances

The claimant will still meet the one half-support where:

  • the NH contributed at least one-half of the child’s support for at least 3 months of the support year.

  • untoward circumstances prevented the NH from making further contributions.

3. Months to be counted when there are untoward circumstances

a. Basic rule

In determining whether the claimant meets the one-half support criteria in RS 01301.020C.2. (in this section), the 3 months counted may be consecutive or intermittent.

b. Exception to rule

The basic rule does not apply if the claimant or some other person assumed the burden of furnishing at least one-half support after the NH stopped or significantly reduced contributions to the stepchild.

The following situations do not constitute such "assumption of support" (and the untoward circumstance rule still applies):

  • More than one person shares in assuming the burden of furnishing at least one-half support to the stepchild after the NH was forced to stop or significantly reduce his or her contributions;

  • After the NH's loss of income which caused him or her to reduce or stop contributions to the stepchild, the household accommodates to the lower level of income and the NH's spouse thereby provides at least one-half of the stepchild's support; or

  • Initial receipt of or increase in public assistance or other relief occurs after the NH reduced or stopped contributions; this is not considered an assumption of support by the agency furnishing such assistance.

Do not use the "Throughout the First Month of Entitlement" requirement and the untoward circumstances rule in life cases when the dependency point is the time of the stepchild's application. See RS 00203.010.

4. Reduced Contribution

If the NH's contributions gradually reduce due to untoward circumstances, we may deem the circumstances happened when the NH last contributed at least one-half of the stepchild's support, even though the NH later made additional contributions.

D. Policy on other reasonable periods of support

1. General contribution of support requirement

If, during the 12-month period immediately preceding the month of the dependency point, there was a change in circumstances (either positive or negative) that affected the child's support, the period to be considered in determining support begins with the change in circumstances unless untoward circumstances are present. In such cases, the claimant meets the support requirement if the NH contributed at least one-half of the claimant’s support for a reasonable period, which may be less than 12 months.

The support period must always be immediately before the dependency point month. (The note in RS 01301.020B.1. (in this section) concerning the first month of entitlement also applies here.) If there was more than one change in circumstances in a particular case, the support period begins with the last change.

2. Reasonable period of one-half support

A period, however short, is reasonable. The test is whether the NH plainly showed an intention to provide at least one-half of the claimant's support on a continuing and permanent basis.

Consider the NH's intent and actions based on that intent to determine what a reasonable period is in each case. Even a month or less may be reasonable, depending on all the facts.

EXAMPLE: John Smith gets SSA disability benefits in January 2011. He now provides more than one-half support to his stepson. The date of filing for his stepson’s benefits is September 2009. You are adjudicating the claim in May 2011. You are using the child’s application filing date as the dependency point (looking at the facts from the date of filing September 2009 through when the claim is adjudicated May 2011). You can determine the support period to be January 2011 through May 2011 because the support will continue on a permanent basis.

3. Claimant employed

If the claimant received wages or self-employment income (SEI) during part of the year before the NH's entitlement, death, onset, or filing, but not in the period just before such entitlement, death, onset, or filing, the claimant must state whether the employment was permanent or temporary in nature.

If the claimant could reasonably expect to return to regular employment at the above-mentioned times, the reasonable period rule will not apply. In such cases, SSA must use the 12-month period and find one-half support only if the NH contributed at least one-half of the claimant's support during that part of the year the claimant was working.

4. Change in support picture

The period SSA considers in determining support begins with the change in circumstances unless untoward circumstances are present. Consider taking a new child’s application if there is a change in circumstances after an initial denial. Make a new one-half support determination and, if found, limit the date of entitlement to the change in circumstances. For example, if the support picture is from September 2009 through August 2010 and the stepfather stops working in March 2010, consider March 2010 through August 2010 as the period to determine support unless untoward circumstances are present.

5. Seasonal employment

Consider changes caused by seasonal employment of the NH or the NH’s spouse as temporary, not permanent. Thus, we must use the 12-month period when seasonal employment is involved, unless untoward circumstances are present.

6. Positive change in circumstances

Where SSA uses a support period of less than 12 months due to a positive change in circumstances (e.g., the NH has been unemployed for most of the usual 12-month support period and then becomes employed), consider a short period a “reasonable period.” Even a month or less may be reasonable, depending on the facts. The test is whether the NH plainly shows, or showed, an intention to provide at least one-half of the child's support on a continuing and permanent basis.

It is sometimes appropriate to consider the support situation in the month of the dependency point itself in arriving at a finding of one-half support when there has been a positive change in circumstances. For example, the NH started providing at least one-half support on a permanent basis a few weeks before the dependency point. See RS 01301.020E.4. (in this section) for an example of such a case.

E. Examples of how to determine the dependency period for one-half support

  1. The NH, Bill Weaver, died in December 2009. His stepson Jason applied for benefits on his record. The usual support period would be the 12-month period before the month of the NH's death (December 2008 through November 2009). However, in September 2009 Bill quit his job to return to school, and did not contribute to Jason's support from that point until his death. Because this constitutes a change in circumstances, the support period begins with the time of the change, September 2009, and runs through November 2009. Do not consider the change in circumstances of support picture as "untoward circumstances" because Bill's decision to leave his job was within his control. See RS 01301.020D (in this section).

  2. The NH, John Taylor, became disabled in December 2009. His stepson Charles applied for benefits on his record. The usual support period is the 12-month period before the onset of disability (December 2008 through November 2009). However, John was laid off from his job in April 2009. Although he took a part-time job earning much less from that point until he became disabled. John's mother and sister sent money to the family to help them out financially during that time. Since John's loss of income was not within his control, and no single other person assumed at least one-half of Charles' support after John had to reduce his contributions, the untoward circumstances rule applies in this case. Therefore, we may use any 3 months during the usual 12-month support period in determining whether John provided at least one