You asked whether a parent-child relationship exists between Claimant, J~, and the
Number Holder (NH), D~, for purposes of establishing Claimant’s entitlement to child’s
insurance benefits on NH’s account?
Yes. Claimant is entitled to child’s insurance benefits on NH’s account because a
parent-child relationship existed under Hawaii law. NH received Claimant into her
home and openly held Claimant out as her child.
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE
NH and her wife, T~ (T~), provided the following information in statements dated February
14, 2014 and July 28, 2014:
NH and T~ entered into a relationship in 1998.
T~ changed her last name from T~ to Q~ in 1999.
The family currently resides in Hawaii.
With respect to her involvement in Claimant’s life, NH reported that:
She was present in the delivery room at Claimant’s birth and has provided her with
emotional support since birth.
She attends Claimant’s school and sporting events.
Teachers and coaches regard her as Claimant’s parent.
Her community regards her as Claimant’s mother, and Claimant as her child.
She is Claimant’s emergency contact person in the event that T~ is not available.
Since 2013, she has contributed to Claimant’s food and clothing expenses.
Since 2013, she has attended Claimant’s parent-teacher conferences and made decisions
regarding Claimant’s education and medical care.
Since October 2013, she has resided with Claimant and T~.
Documentary evidence establishes the following facts:
Claimant was born on January XX, 20XX. Her Nevada birth certificate lists Q~ as her
last name, and T~ as her mother. The birth certificate does not provide a name for
Claimant’s father or any second parent.
NH and T~ were married in British Colombia, Canada on July XX, 2006.
NH and T~ were married in Hawaii on December XX, 2013.
NH named Claimant as a dependent on her 2013 federal tax return.
NH and T~ amended their rental agreement to reflect tenancy by NH, T~, and Claimant,
on May XX, 2014.
Under the Social Security Act (Act), every unmarried minor child of an insured individual
who is entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits is entitled to child’s
insurance benefits. Social Security Act § 202(d)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). To receive
child’s insurance benefits, however, the applicant must qualify as the insured individual’s
“child,” as defined by section 216(e), and be dependent on the insured individual
at the time she filed her application. See id.; 20 C.F.R. § 404.350.
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 application. 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 (SSR) 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 dependent during the parent’s life...”).
NH was domiciled in Hawaii at the time Claimant filed her application for benefits.
Accordingly, Hawaii intestacy law determines Claimant’s relationship with NH, and
thus, her entitlement to child’s insurance benefits.
Hawaii’s Uniform Probate Code (UPC) provides that children may inherit intestate from
their parents, regardless of the parents’ marital status. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-114.
The UPC also provides that the parent and child relationship may be established under
Hawaii’s Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) (Hawaii Revised Statutes, chapter 584). Id.
Pursuant to Hawaii’s UPA, a man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if he “receives the minor child into his home and openly holds out the
child as his natural child.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 584-4(a)(4). The UPA extends this presumption
to determining the existence of a mother and child relationship. See Haw. Rev. Stat.
§ 584-21 (“Any interested party may bring an action to determine the existence or
nonexistence of a mother and child relationship. Insofar as practicable, the provisions
of this chapter applicable to the father and child relationship shall apply.”); see
also Child Support Enforcement Agency v. Doe, 125 P. 3d 461, 471 (Haw. 2005) (by enacting
section 584-21, “the legislature has ensured that mothers will be subject to the same
enforcement procedures and statutory privileges applied to fathers”).
In Doe v. Doe, the Hawaii Supreme Court held that the “fundamental purpose” of chapter
584 is to “protect the rights and ensure the obligations of parents of children born
out of wedlock.” Doe v. Doe, 52 P. 3d 255, 261-62 (Haw. 2002) (internal citation omitted).
Thus, the Court explained that “the UPA and, by extension, chapter 584 are largely
concerned with establishing a means by which to identify the person (usually the father)
against whom these rights may be asserted. In short, it is to ensure that every child, to the extent possible, has an identifiable legal
father.” Id. (internal citation omitted) (emphasis added). The Court specifically identified the
right to intestate succession as one which chapter 584 intended to provide and determined
that the purpose of the UPA is to establish a second legal parent to whom the child
may turn for inheritance and support. Id.
In Inoue v. Inoue, the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals applied section 584-4(a)(4)
to determine that a wife was estopped from challenging her husband’s status as the
child’s presumed father, even though he was not the biological father. 185 P. 3d 834,
842 (Haw. Ct. App. 2008). In that case, the presumed father attended prenatal appointments
with the mother, assumed primary child care responsibilities after the mother returned
to work, lived with the child from the time of birth, participated in the child’s
medical care, established an education account for the child, and held the child out
to his family as his own. Id. at 836-37. Based on these facts, the Court concluded that the presumed father “held out” the
child as his own, as defined in section 584-4(a)(4). Id. at 842.
Here, NH’s relationship with Claimant is supported by different facts than in Inoue.
The Inoue court was concerned with presumed parenthood only to the extent that it
strengthened the argument in favor of estoppel, and concluded without analysis that
there was evidence of “holding out.” Id. at 842. Thus, Inoue should not be interpreted
as establishing the minimum showing for presumed parenthood under section 584-4(a)(4).
We are not aware of any Hawaii case in which a court has evaluated what threshold
degree of evidence would constitute “openly hold[ing] out the child as [a] natural
child” for purposes of presumed parenthood.
However, in California, another state that has adopted the UPA, courts have articulated
several factors guiding a determination of presumed parentage based on “holding out.”
California’s “holding out” provision and public policy mirror that of Hawaii. Therefore, it is reasonable for us to believe that a Hawaii court would look to California
case law for guidance.
In Charisma R., the California Court of Appeal found a presumption of parentage even
though the petitioner had only lived with and shared in the child’s care for about
three months. Id. at 366-67, 374. The Court found petitioner to be the presumed mother because she
was present at the child’s birth, gave the child a hyphenated last name that included
her name, and she held herself out as the child’s parent in public announcements.
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 child’s second parent. Id. at 1037.
Additionally, in E.C. v. J.V., 202 Cal. App. 4th 1076 (Cal. Ct. App. 2012), the California
Court of Appeal stressed that, in determining presumed parentage, the State looks
at the presumed parent’s commitment to the child’s well-being, as opposed to the presumed
parent’s relationship with the biological mother. Id. at 1085.
NH and T~ were married in Canada in July 2006, and remarried in Hawaii in December
2013. NH was present at Claimant’s birth, NH shares a surname with Claimant, and NH reported
providing emotional support to Claimant since her birth. For instance, NH only began
contributing to Claimant’s financial support in 2013. NH listed Claimant as her dependent
on her federal tax return for tax year 2013. Furthermore, in 2013, NH began attending
Claimant’s parent-teacher conferences and began participating in decisions regarding
Claimant’s education and medical care.
Of even greater significance, NH began living with Claimant in October 2013. Therefore,
a Hawaii court would likely find that NH “received” Claimant into her home, and “openly
held” Claimant out as her child.
Finally, finding NH to be Claimant’s presumed parent is consistent with Hawaii’s public
policy. The facts do not indicate that any other individual has taken an active role
as Claimant’s second parent. Therefore, Hawaii public policy favors a determination
that a parent-child relationship exists between Claimant and NH, as this result ensures
that Claimant has the benefit of two parents committed to her welfare. See Doe, 52
P. 3d at 261-62.
Under Hawaii law, NH is Claimant’s natural parent and Claimant could inherit intestate
from her. As the NH’s natural child, Claimant is deemed dependent on her. Claimant
is therefore entitled to child’s insurance benefits on NH’s account under section
216(h)(2) of the Act.