You asked whether a parent-child relationship existed between M~(NH) and A~ and K~
(Claimants) for purposes of determining A~ and K~’s entitlement to child’s insurance
Yes. The Claimants are entitled to benefits as the NH’s children because a parent-child
relationship is established under California law. NH received the Claimants into her
home and openly held them out as her children.
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE
NH and C~ were in a relationship that began before 1999. C~ gave birth to the Claimants
in October, 1999, and the Claimants’ birth certificates list her as the mother. The
Claimants’ birth certificates do not list a father or a second parent. On August XX,
2001, NH executed a will and living trust naming C~ as her life partner and identifying
the Claimants as her children.
On August XX, 2008, NH and C~ were married in California. At the time NH and C~ married,
same-sex marriage was legal in California. NH died from cancer on October XX, 2011 in C~, California.
In a March 2014 child relationship statement (SSA-2519), NH’s mother reported that
NH and C~ lived with her from December 1997 to July 2003 in C~, California. When the
Claimants were born in 1999, the children also lived with NH’s mother until NH, C~,
and the Claimants moved to their own home in C~, California in July 2003. NH signed
the Claimant’s school forms and report cards as their parent. NH’s mother also stated
that NH lived with the Claimants from their birth until the NH’s death. She stated that the Claimants referred to NH as “Mommy” and that NH fed them, played
with them, took care of them at home, took them to school, picked them up from school,
took them to play gym, Tae Kwan Do, soccer, school events, play practices, assemblies,
play-dates, swim lessons, family get-togethers and trips, and birthday parties. NH’s
mother also stated that NH went to parent-teacher conferences, participated in the
PTA as a treasurer and room mother, and assisted the soccer team. NH’s mother stated
that she considered the Claimants to be her grandchildren and that her other grandchildren
considered the Claimants to be their cousins.
C~’s sister confirmed that NH, C~, and the Claimants lived together. NH’s nephew also
confirmed that NH was present during C~’s pregnancy and throughout the Claimants’
lives and that NH took care of the Claimants while C~ worked. A2~, MD, a parent at
R~, which the Claimants attended, stated that while C~ worked at an accounting job,
NH was the main parent in charge of the Claimants’ needs, rearing, and education.
L~, LMFT, reported that NH, C~, the Claimants attended G~ support groups for cancer
patients and their families together. Since NH passed away, the Claimants continue
to attend club functions and weekly support groups for bereavement counseling.
Under the Social Security Act (Act), every unmarried minor child of an individual
that dies fully or currently insured shall be entitled to child insurance benefits.
Social Security Act § 202(d)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). However, to receive child
insurance benefits, the applicant must qualify as the insured individual’s “natural
child” and be dependent on the insured individual at the time he filed his application
for child insurance benefits. See id.; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350, 404.355. In determining whether a claimant qualifies as the
child of the insured individual, the Commissioner applies the law governing the devolution
of intestate personal property by the courts of the State in which such insured individual
was domiciled at the time of his or her death. Social Security Act § 216(h)(2)(A),
42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(2)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(a)(1). An applicant who satisfies the
requirements of section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Act is also deemed dependent upon the
insured individual. 20 C.F.R. § 404.361(a) (“If you are the insured’s natural child,
as defined in § 404.355, you are considered dependent upon him or her”); Social Security
Ruling 77-2c (“where state intestacy law provides that a child may take personal property
from a father’s estate, it may reasonably be thought that the child will more likely
be dependant during the parent’s life...”).
Here, the NH died while domiciled in California. Therefore, the agency looks to California
intestacy law to determine whether the Claimants are the children of the NH for purposes
Under California intestacy law, a natural parent and child relationship “is established
where the relationship is presumed and not rebutted pursuant to the Uniform Parentage
Act.” Cal. Prob. Code § 6453(a); see also Cal. Fam. Code §§ 7600-7730 (Uniform Parentage Act (UPA)). Pursuant to California’s
UPA, a person is presumed to be the natural parent of a child if he or she “receives
the child into his or her home and openly holds out the child as his or her natural
child.” Cal. Fam. Code § 7611(d); see also Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN 00306.430(A)(1)(b)(6).
The presumption of natural parentage applies even in the absence of a biological relationship.
See Elisa B. v. Superior Court, 37 Cal. 4th 108, 120-21 (Cal. 2005). Paternity presumptions are not driven by biological
paternity, but rather by “the state’s interest in the welfare of the child and the
integrity of the family.” Id. at 121-22 (citing In re Salvador M., 111 Cal. App. 4th 1353, 1357-58 (Cal. Ct. App. 2003)). California recognizes the
value of having two parents as a source of emotional and financial support for a child,
and an alleged parent’s commitment to the child and the child’s well-being are considerations
in determining presumed parenthood status. Id. at 123; In re D.M., 210 Cal. App. 4th 541, 553 (Cal. Ct. App. 2012) (citing E.C. v. J.V., 202 Cal. App. 4th 1076, 1085 (Cal. Ct. App. 2012)). In determining whether an alleged
parent has held out a child as her natural child, California courts look at the alleged
parent’s conduct to determine her commitment to the child, and may consider factors
such as whether the alleged parent helped with prenatal care; paid pregnancy and birth
expenses commensurate with the ability to do so; whether and how long the parent cared
for the child; and acknowledged the child to others. See E.C., 202 Cal. App. 4th at 1087.
In Elisa B., the California Supreme Court discussed several factors that supported a finding
of presumed maternity, including the fact that the petitioner was in a committed relationship
with her partner when they decided to have children together and that the petitioner
raised the children as her own. See Elisa B., 37 Cal. 4th at 122. Importantly, the Court held the petitioner, who participated
in causing the children to be conceived, voluntarily accepted the rights and obligations
of parenthood after the children were born, and there were no competing claims to
her being the children’s parent, was a presumed parent under the UPA. Id. at 124-25.
Similarly, in S.Y. v. S.B., 201 Cal. App. 4th 1023 (Cal. Ct. App. 2011), the California Court of Appeal upheld
the finding of presumed parentage of S.Y., where S.Y. encouraged S.B. to adopt a child
with the understanding they would raise the child together; S.Y. voluntarily accepted
the rights and obligations of parenthood after the child was born; and no other person
claimed to be the second parent. Id. at 1037. The Court also found that S.Y.’s attending the child’s school events and
naming the child as a beneficiary to her assets strengthened her claim to parentage.
Id.. at 1035. Finally, the fact that S.Y.’s parents considered and treated the child
as their grandchild showed that S.Y. held the child out as her own. Id.
Here, as in Elisa B., the evidence shows that NH and C~ were in a committed relationship before deciding
to have children. NH clearly accepted the Claimants into her home as C~, the Claimants,
and NH all lived together with NH’s mother for the first few years of the Claimants’
lives. Thereafter, C~, the Claimants, and NH moved into their own home for the remainder
of NH’s life. Cf. C. R. v. K. S., 175 Cal. App. 4th 361 (Cal. Ct. App. 2009) (finding a presumption of parentage even
though the petitioner had only lived with and shared in the child’s care for about
three months). Moreover, after the Claimants were born, NH accepted her responsibilities
as a parent and raised the children. NH signed school documents as the Claimants’
parent and participated in the PTA at their school. NH also named the Claimants as
her children and her beneficiaries in her last will and testament and in her living
The evidence shows that NH was committed to the Claimants and their well-being since
their birth. She took the Claimants into her home, cared for them, supported them,
and openly held them out as her children by declaring that they were her children
on formal documents, including her own will and testament. Therefore, a California
court would likely find that NH was the natural mother of the Claimants because she
voluntarily accepted the rights and obligations of parenthood and demonstrated a commitment
to the Claimants and their welfare. Finally, public policy would favor a finding of
a parent and child relationship between NH and the Claimants, as there are no competing
claims for the role of the Claimants’ second parent. See In re Nicholas H., 28 Cal. 4th at 63-64; E.C., 202 Cal. App. 4th at 1085; accord S.Y. v. S.B., 201 Cal. App. 4th 1023, 1036 (Cal. Ct. App. 2012) (finding the defendant failed
to rebut the parentage presumption where the plaintiff voluntarily accepted the rights
and obligations of parenthood since the children were born, there were no competing
claims to her being the second parent, and public policy favored children having two
Thus, NH is the Claimants’ presumptive parent under California Family Code section
7611(d), as NH received the Claimants into her home and openly held them out as her
natural children. See Cal. Fam. Code § 7611(d). As the NH’s children under the UPA, the Claimants are able
to inherit intestate from the NH under California Probate Code section 6453(a).
Because we conclude the Claimants are the children of NH under California Family Code
section 7611(d), the agency need not reach the issue of whether there is another independent
presumption of parentage arising from the 2008 marriage between C~ and the NH.
Under California law, NH is the natural mother of the Claimants, and they could inherit
intestate from her. The Claimants are therefore entitled to child’s insurance benefits
on the NH’s record.