TN 18 (02-17)

PR 00905.014 Hawaii

A. PR 16–082 Establishing Parent-Child Relationship under Hawaii Law

Date: February 10, 2016

1. Syllabus

NH was domiciled in Hawaii at the time Claimant filed her application for benefits, therefore we look to the Hawaii Intestacy to determine the parent-child relationship. Hawaii’s Uniform Probate Code (UPC) provides that children may inherit intestate from their parents, regardless of the parents’ marital status. In addition, the parent- child relationship may also be established under Hawaii’s Uniform Parentage Act (UPA). The Claimant is entitled to child’s insurance benefits on the NH’s account because a parent-child relationship existed under the Hawaii law. The NH is the Claimant’s natural parent and could inherit intestate from the NH. The Claimant is deemed dependent on the NH, therefore, the Claimant is entitled to child’s insurance benefits on the NH’s account under section 216(h)(2) of the Act.

2. Opinion

QUESTION

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?1

SHORT ANSWER

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.

LEGAL STANDARDS

Federal Law

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”);2 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 Law

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 father3 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”).

Public Policy

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.

“Holding Out”

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 836-37.4 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.5 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. Id.

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.

ANALYSIS

NH and T~ were married in Canada in July 2006, and remarried in Hawaii in December 2013.6 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.

CONCLUSION

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.


Footnotes:

[1]

. As an alternative basis of establishing Claimant’s entitlement to child’s insurance benefits, you asked whether Claimant is the stepchild of NH based on NH’s July 2006 marriage to Claimant’s biological mother in British Columbia, Canada. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.357. However, because we find that Claimant is NH’s natural child under Hawaii law, the agency need not address her entitlement to benefits as the NH’s stepchild.

[2]

. The term “natural child,” as used in the agency’s regulations means a child who can establish his or her status under any of the criteria in 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(a).