TN 50 (06-16)

SI 00501.015 Determining Parent-Child Relationships for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Purposes

Citations:

Social Security Act, Sec. 1614

20 CFR 416.1160; 416.1165; 416.1851; 416.1881

A. Introduction to determining parent-child relationships for SSI purposes

Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as a program of last resort, recognizes a measure of family responsibility by deeming a portion of a parent’s income and resources to an SSI eligible child under the conditions specified in the regulations. The deeming provisions typically reduce the SSI payments a disabled or blind child would otherwise receive.

1. Use of the term parent

Under our regulations, a parent is a natural parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent.

In these instructions, we consider:

  • a natural parent (a parent) to be a person who was a child’s parent from birth or a parent based on his or her role in the child’s life;

  • an adoptive parent to be a person who legally adopted a child; and

  • a stepparent to be the current spouse, including a holding-out spouse, of a child’s parent or adoptive parent.

Keep in mind that:

  • not all SSI children (as defined in SI 00501.010) are in parent-child relationships for SSI purposes;

  • an eligible child may have more than two parents in his or her household, e.g., when the child lives with two parents or adoptive parents as well as a parent’s current spouse, as in SI 01320.500B.4.; or

  • we may find that someone who is not a parent from the time of a child’s birth is a parent based on his or her role in the child’s life, or is an adoptive parent or a stepparent.

2. Whether someone is or is not a parent

Consistent with our regulations, we accept allegations about whether someone is or is not the parent of a child (including an adoptive parent or stepparent), unless we have information to the contrary.

To resolve information to the contrary, we first review certain available certificates or decrees indicated in SI 00501.015E in this section.

When such records are unavailable or insufficient to support an allegation about whether someone:

  • was a child’s parent from birth;

  • legally adopted a child; or

  • is married to the child’s parent (thereby attaining stepparent status);

We may find that someone is:

  • a parent based on his or her role in the child’s life, or

  • a stepparent based on how a couple hold themselves out to the community.

In a disputed case, notwithstanding records of birth, adoption, or marriage, we evaluate real-life factors to determine whether someone is a parent, such as the degree to which the individual participates in the child’s upbringing, what parental responsibilities he or she accepts, how he or she refers to the child, and how the community regards the relationship.

B. Determining SSI parent-child relationships

When we find that a child is in a parent-child relationship for SSI purposes, we:

  • deem parental income and resources;

  • apply allocations for ineligible children in a deemor’s household; and

  • exclude one-third of the child support received from a parent who is absent from the household.

1. When to accept an allegation that an individual is or is not a parent

On an SSI application or redetermination, accept an allegation that an individual is or is not the parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent of a child for SSI purposes, unless you have information to the contrary.

Do not question an allegation that an individual is or is not the child’s parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent for SSI purposes solely because:

  • the alleged parent may not be the child’s biological parent (e.g., when the parents are of the same sex or when there is information indicating that the child was conceived through artificial reproductive technology); or

  • instructions in subchapter GN 00306.000 would not establish this as a parent-child relationship for Title II purposes; i.e., do not consider the Title II definitions of child or parent when making a parent-child determination for SSI purposes.

    NOTE: We do not use Title II instructions when we determine whether someone is a parent for SSI purposes. Information that is associated with a Title II claim or evident from the Master Beneficiary Record (MBR), however, may be “information to the contrary” if it conflicts with a Title XVI allegation regarding the parent-child relationship. See SI 00501.015B.2. in this section.

2. When to question an allegation regarding whether someone is a parent

Question an allegation regarding whether someone is the child’s parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent for SSI purposes only if you have information contrary to that allegation.

There would be “information to the contrary,” for example, when:

  • an individual alleged to be the child’s parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent comes forward to deny the relationship;

  • any individual provides contradictory allegations with respect to the child’s parent(s), adoptive parent(s), or stepparent(s);

  • an individual alleges that an original parent’s rights were terminated when the child was adopted; or

  • SSA’s records (e.g., documents presently available to SSA, materials associated with other SSA claims involving the child and his or her family, or NUMIDENT records) contradict the allegation of parenthood for SSI purposes.

If you question an allegation that someone is or is not the child’s parent or adoptive parent for SSI purposes because you have information contrary to the allegation, evaluate an available birth certificate, baptismal certificate, or adoption decree, and, as needed, evidence from the child’s everyday life in the order instructed in SI 00501.015D and SI 00501.015E in this section.

Where evidence does not support that someone is a parent or adoptive parent, he or she may be a stepparent because of a marital relationship with a child’s parent (including a holding-out marital relationship or a marriage by reason of entitlement to Title II benefits as a spouse). Furthermore, we may find that someone is a parent based on his or her role in the child’s life.

Do not make a determination that an individual is not a parent for SSI purposes without first following the procedural steps laid out in SI 00501.015D in this section.

C. Definitions of parent-child relationships

1. Parent-child or adoptive parent-child relationship for deeming to an eligible child and for applying the ineligible child allocation

For the purpose of deeming income and resources to a child (as defined in SI 00501.010B.1.) or for applying the ineligible child allocation (as in SI 00501.010B.2.), the parent or adoptive parent:

  • is a member of the same household as the child(ren) (for instructions on “Temporary Absence” from a household for deeming purposes, see SI 01310.165, and for “Absence from a Deeming Household Due to Military Service,” see SI 01310.170); and

  • is not himself or herself eligible for SSI payments.

2. Stepparent-stepchild relationships

a. Stepparent-stepchild relationship for deeming of income and resources to an eligible child

For the purpose of deeming of income and resources to a child (as defined in SI 00501.010B.1.), a stepparent:

  • is the current spouse (including someone who is a holding-out spouse or who is entitled to Title II benefits as a spouse) of the child’s parent or adoptive parent;

  • is a member of the same household as the child and the child’s parent or adoptive parent (for instructions on “Temporary Absence” from a household for deeming purposes, see SI 01310.165, and for “Absence from a Deeming Household Due to Military Service,” see SI 01310.170); and

  • is not himself or herself eligible for SSI payments.

b. Stepparent-stepchild relationship for applying the ineligible child allocation when deeming to an eligible (adult) individual

For the purpose of applying the ineligible child allocation (as in SI 00501.010B.2.), when deeming to an eligible (adult) individual, a stepparent:

  • is the current spouse (including someone who is a holding-out spouse or who is entitled to Title II benefits as the spouse) of the eligible individual;

  • is a member of the same household as the eligible individual and the ineligible child (see SI 01310.165 for instructions on “Temporary Absence” from a household for deeming purposes and SI 01310.170 for “Absence from a Deeming Household Due to Military Service”); and

  • is not himself or herself eligible for SSI payments.

c. Stepparent-stepchild relationship for applying the ineligible child allocation when deeming to an eligible child

For the purpose of applying the ineligible child allocation (see SI 00501.010B.2.), when deeming to an eligible child, a stepparent:

  • is the current spouse (including someone who is a holding-out spouse or who is entitled to Title II benefits as a spouse) of the eligible child’s parent or adoptive parent;

  • may or may not be a member of the same household as the eligible child, the ineligible child, and the child’s parent or adoptive parent; and

  • is not himself or herself eligible for SSI payments.

3. Parent-child relationship for excluding one-third of the child support from an eligible child’s countable income

For the purpose of applying the one-third exclusion of child support (see SI 00501.010B.3.), a parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent:

  • provides monetary or in-kind support to an SSI eligible child, and

  • does not live in the same household as the eligible child (for instructions on determining absence for a child support determination, see SI 00830.420).

D. Table for determining parent-child relationships for SSI purposes

Step

Action

1

Is there an allegation that this individual is or is not a parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent of:

  • an eligible child, or

  • an ineligible child

as defined in SI 00501.010B?

If yes, go to step 2.

If no, do not apply these instructions. STOP.

2

Does the allegation involve someone who:

  • is absent from an eligible child’s household (see SI 00830.420A.2. regarding absence); and

  • provides child support to the eligible child?

If yes, refer to SI 00832.420 to determine if you may exclude one-third of the child support the eligible child receives. STOP.

If no, go to step 3.

3

Do you have information contrary to the allegation?

For example:

  • does someone alleged to be the child’s parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent come forward to deny the relationship;

  • does someone provide contradictory allegations with respect to the child’s parent(s), adoptive parent(s), or stepparent(s);

  • does someone claim that the alleged parent’s parental rights were terminated when the child was adopted; or

  • do SSA’s records (e.g., documents currently available to SSA, information associated with other Title II or Title XVI claims involving the child, or NUMIDENT records) contradict the allegation of parenthood?

If yes, go to step 4.

If no, accept the allegation that this is or is not the child’s parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent. Go to step 12.

4

If the allegation involves an adoptive parent, go to step 5.

If the allegation involves a marital relationship that may create stepparent status, go to step 7.

If the allegation involves someone whose parental rights were terminated when the child was adopted, go to step 6.

Otherwise, go to step 10.

5

Review an official civil record of adoption (e.g., a decree of legal adoption or a court or State record of adoption) provided by the claimant or otherwise readily available.

If the available records are sufficient for you to determine that the individual is an adoptive parent, document your decision as set out in SI 00501.015E.1 in this section. Go to step 13.

If official records are unavailable or otherwise fail to establish whether the individual is an adoptive parent, go to step 6 to consider if the individual may be a stepparent for SSI purposes.

6

Might this individual be the current spouse (including someone who is a holding-out spouse or who is entitled to Title II benefits as the spouse) of the child’s parent or adoptive parent?

If yes, go to step 7.

If no, go to step 11 to determine if the individual is a parent for SSI purposes, based on his or her role in the child’s life.

7

Review a certificate of marriage or death, a decree of divorce or annulment provided by the claimant or otherwise readily available, or an MBR indicating that the alleged stepparent is entitled to Title II benefits as the spouse of the child’s parent or adoptive parent.

If the available records are sufficient for you to determine whether the individual is a stepparent based on his or her current marriage to the child’s parent or adoptive parent, document your decision as set out in SI 00501.015E.1 in this section. Go to step 16.

If such records are unavailable or otherwise fail to establish whether the individual is a stepparent based on a ceremonial marriage or by reason of entitlement to Title II benefits as a spouse, go to step 8 to determine if the individual is a stepparent for SSI purposes based on a holding-out marital relationship.

8

Are the individual and the child’s parent/adoptive parent members of the child’s household?

If yes, go to step 9.

If no, this individual is not a stepparent based on a holding-out marital relationship. To determine if the individual is a parent for SSI purposes, based on his or her role in the child’s life, go to step 11.

9

Do the child’s parent (or adoptive parent) and the individual hold themselves out as a married couple to the community in which they live, as set out in the instructions in SI 00501.152C?

If yes, the individual is a stepparent for SSI purposes. Document your decision as set out in SI 00501.015E.2. in this section. Go to step 15.

If no, this individual is not a stepparent for SSI purposes. To determine if the individual is a parent for SSI purposes, based on his or her role in the child’s life, go to step 11.

10

Review a birth or baptismal certificate provided by the claimant or otherwise readily available.

If the available records are sufficient for you to determine that the individual is the child’s parent, document your decision as set out in SI 00501.015E.1. in this section. Go to step 13.

If such records are unavailable or otherwise fail to establish that the individual is the child’s parent, go to step 6 to consider if the individual may be a stepparent for SSI purposes.

11

As appropriate, obtain evidence in the form of documents, reports, or statements indicating the individual’s role in the child’s life. For more information on determining and documenting parent-child relationships for SSI purposes based on real-life factors, see SI 00501.015E (and the examples in SI 00501.015F) in this section.

If you determine that this individual is a parent for SSI purposes, document your decision as set out in SI 00501.015E.3. in this section. Go to step 13.

If you determine that this individual is not a parent for SSI purposes, document your decision, as set out in SI 00501.015E.3. in this section. STOP.

12

If this is a parent or adoptive parent, go to step 13.

If this is a stepparent, go to step 15.

13

Is this an ineligible individual who is a member of the same household as his or her eligible child and (where applicable) his or her ineligible child(ren)?

If yes, he or she is a parent for purposes of deeming of parental income and resources and for purposes of conferring ineligible child allocation status to his or her other child(ren) in the eligible child’s household. STOP.

If no, he or she is not a parent either:

  • for purposes of deeming of parental income and resources to an eligible child, or

  • for purposes of conferring ineligible child allocation status to other children in the eligible child’s household. Go to step 14.

14

Is this an ineligible individual who is a member of the same household as his or her eligible spouse and ineligible child(ren)?

If yes, apply the ineligible child allocation to every such child in the household. STOP.

If no, he or she is not a parent for purposes of conferring ineligible child allocation status to his or her child(ren) in the eligible spouse’s household. STOP.

15

Is this stepparent a member of the same household as his or her spouse and his or her spouse’s eligible child?

If yes, he or she is a stepparent for purposes of deeming of parental income and resources. To determine if he or she is also a stepparent for purposes of conferring ineligible child allocation status to other children in the eligible child’s household, go to step 16.

If no, he or she is not a stepparent for purposes of deeming of parental income and resources. To determine if he or she is a stepparent for purposes of conferring ineligible child allocation status to other children in the eligible child’s household, go to step 16.

16

Is this someone who:

  • is the stepparent of an eligible child, and

  • may or may not be a member of the same household as that eligible child, but

  • is the parent of one or more ineligible children who are themselves members of the eligible child’s household?

If yes, apply the ineligible child allocation to every such ineligible child in the eligible child’s household. STOP.

If no, he or she is not a stepparent for purposes of conferring ineligible child allocation status to other children in the eligible child’s household. STOP.

E. Using evidence to determine a parent-child relationship when you have information contrary to an allegation

Accept an allegation that an individual is or is not the parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent of an eligible child or an ineligible child for deeming allocation purposes, unless you have information to the contrary (as instructed in SI 00501.015B.2. in this section).

1. Using certain certificates and decrees as evidence when you have information contrary to an allegation regarding a parent-child relationship

If you have information contrary to an allegation regarding a parent (adoptive, stepparent)-child relationship, first review one or more of the following readily available documents:

  • certificate of birth, baptism, marriage (or an MBR indicating that the alleged stepparent is entitled to Title II benefits as the spouse of the child’s parent or adoptive parent), or death, or

  • decree of adoption, divorce, or annulment.

If:

  • the certificate(s) (or, for marriage, an MBR) or decree(s) names the related parties;

  • there are no contrary allegations remaining; and

  • you are able to determine that the individual is a parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent, then document your decision on the DROC screen. Place a copy of the evidence in the file, using NDRed.

Remember that, while documents may not establish that an individual is a parent or an adoptive parent, the individual may be:

  • a stepparent due to the existence of a marital relationship, or

  • a parent based on his or her role in the child’s life.

2. Using evidence of a holding-out marriage to establish stepparent status

If you develop for the existence of a holding-out marriage to confer stepparent status according to instructions in SI 00501.152C.3., document your decision on the DROC screen. Place a copy of the evidence in the file, using NDRed.

3. Using other evidence when you have information contrary to an allegation

If birth, adoption, death, or marriage-related certificates or decrees naming the related parties:

  • are not available;

  • raise further questions; or

  • fail to establish that the individual is a parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent; and

  • you do not determine a stepparent-child relationship by reason of a holding-out marriage; then

  • use the Report of Contact (DROC) screen to explain that you are unable to determine that the individual is a parent based on your development; and

  • obtain other evidence to determine whether someone is or is not a parent based on his or her role in the child’s life.

Such evidence may include:

  • records from schools, employers, welfare departments, hospitals, courts, or adoption agencies indicating whom these entities consider to be the child’s parent(s);

  • tax returns naming the child as a dependent;

  • insurance policies listing the child as a beneficiary; and

  • statements made by relatives, friends, or neighbors who are in a position to know the facts concerning an alleged parent-child relationship (e.g., statements regarding whether the individual was present at the child’s birth, takes the child to medical appointments, or refers to the child as his or her own child or stepchild).

Evaluate the documents and statements to determine whether the individual is or is not the child’s parent based on his or her role in the child’s life. Consider such factors as the degree to which the individual participates in the child’s upbringing, what parental responsibilities he or she accepts, how he or she refers to the child, and how the community regards the relationship.

For examples of parent-child relationship determinations, see SI 00501.015F in this section. In some cases, a single piece of evidence of the individual’s role in the child’s life may be conclusive.

Use the DROC screen to explain your determination regarding the alleged parent-child relationship. Place a copy of the supporting evidence in the file, using NDRed.

F. Examples of determining parent-child relationships

1. Two parents alleged; no information to the contrary; accept allegation

Michelle visits her local field office (FO) to file for SSI payments for her child, Noah. Michelle alleges that she and Noah live with Noah’s other parent, Greg. The ACID screen prefills ICDB information indicating Michelle and Greg as Noah’s parents. There is no information contrary to Michelle’s allegation that both she and Greg are Noah’s parents. The FO deems income and resources to Noah from both Michelle and Greg without further development.

2. Two parents alleged; information contrary to the allegation; obtain a birth or baptismal certificate

Ivan and Bill live with four-year-old Denise. When filing for SSI on Denise’s behalf, they allege that they are Denise’s parents, consistent with information on Denise’s NUMIDENT record. The CR, however, notes that Bill was denied Title II payments a year ago, at which time he had not indicated that he had any children. Since this evidence is contrary to the allegation that both Ivan and Bill are Denise’s parents, the CR requests the child’s birth certificate. The birth certificate submitted by Ivan and Bill shows both of their names as parents. Because the document names the parties as alleged, the FO deems income and resources to Denise from both Ivan and Bill.

3. Two parents alleged; information contrary to the allegation; obtain an adoption certificate, then a marriage certificate

Jim and Rusty live together with an SSI child applicant, Tess. Jim alleges that he is Tess’ adoptive father, and both Jim and Rusty say that Rusty is also Tess’ parent. While Tess’ case pends at DDS, the FO receives a phone call from a woman who claims to be Tess’ mother and Jim’s ex-spouse. She has heard that Jim and Rusty are “going around saying that Rusty is Tess’ father.”

At the CR’s request, Jim and Rusty provide the FO with a readily available adoption certificate, which shows only that Jim adopted Tess. No official civil or religious records are readily available to support their allegation that Rusty is also Tess’ parent. The FO then develops for Jim’s possible marital relationship to Rusty and determines that Jim and Rusty are married, based on a marriage certificate. The FO considers the income and resources both of Jim as a parent and Rusty as Jim’s spouse (Tess’ stepparent) when deeming to Tess.

4. Two parents alleged initially; one parent alleged subsequently; obtain a birth or baptismal certificate, then evidence of the individual-in-question’s role in the child’s life

Betty and Chuck were living with thirteen-year-old Valerie when Betty applied for SSI disabled child payments on Valerie’s behalf. Betty alleged that she and Chuck were Valerie’s parents. SSA denied Valerie’s SSI claim due to income deemed from Chuck’s profitable real estate business.

A few months later, Betty again files for Valerie, this time claiming that Chuck is neither Valerie’s parent nor Betty’s spouse. Recognizing “information to the contrary,” the FO requests Valerie’s birth certificate, which is readily available and shows only Betty’s name as the parent. No official civil or religious records are readily available that would indicate that Chuck is Valerie’s parent, adoptive parent, or stepparent.

The FO then looks to a possible holding-out marital relationship between Betty and Chuck that would confer stepparent status on Chuck. Using Form SSA-4178, the FO finds that Betty and Chuck are not in a holding-out marital relationship.

Finally, the FO asks for Valerie’s latest report card, a doctor’s bill, and Chuck’s most recent 1040 tax return.

Although Betty alone had signed Valerie’s report card, Chuck’s name appears on the doctor’s bill as “parent/responsible party,” and Chuck claimed Valerie as his dependent on his tax return. Based on the allegation on Valerie’s original SSI application, as well as the real-life evidence of the doctor’s bill and the tax return, the CR determines that Chuck functions as a parent and is, therefore, a parent for SSI deeming purposes. The FO again denies Valerie’s claim due to excess income.

5. Information contrary to an allegation of an ineligible child for deeming allocation purposes; obtain a birth or baptismal certificate, then evidence of the individual-in-question’s role in the child’s life

Jennifer was living with six-year-old Evan and four-year-old James when Jennifer applied for SSI disability payments for Evan. Jennifer alleged that she was Evan’s mother and that James was not related to her or Evan.

SSA denied Evan’s SSI claim based on deemed parental income from Jennifer, but Jennifer appealed the decision, contending that SSA should take into account that she was supporting James, the other child in the household. Jennifer alleged that James was born to her ex-girlfriend, Rita, when Jennifer and Rita were living together. Contrary to her earlier allegation, Jennifer claimed that she considers James to be her child and that she has continued to raise him, even though Rita has permanently left the household.

Although Jennifer does not appear on James’ birth certificate, she does not allege having legally adopted James, and she does not claim to have married Rita, the FO determines that James qualifies for an ineligible child allocation because Jennifer functions as James’ parent. The FO bases its determination on the real-life evidence of daycare records listing Jennifer as James’ parent and of neighbors’ statements that they consider Jennifer to be James’ mother and that they have observed James calling Jennifer his “mommy.” Because the ineligible child allocation reduces Jennifer’s deemable income, the FO now finds Evan eligible for SSI payments.

G. References


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0500501015
SI 00501.015 - Determining Parent-Child Relationships for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Purposes - 06/30/2016
Batch run: 06/30/2016
Rev:06/30/2016