TN 32 (06-13)

PR 01005.014 Hawaii

A. PR 13-075 Presumption of Legitimacy Under Hawaii Intestacy Law – NH Herbert

DATE: May 6, 2013

1. SYLLABUS

The case consists of the following question:

Is the statement of Claimant’s mother that the Wage Earner is not the biological father of the Claimant clear and convincing evidence rebutting the presumption of paternity?

Summary of Evidence:

  • The wage earner Herbert married the Claimant’s mother Juliet on June 17, 1996.

  • Claimant was born on April . The Claimant’s mother and the wage earner have remained married but have lived separately since December, 2005.

  • According to the Claimant’s mother, the wage earner is not the Claimant’s biological father although he is listed as the father on the birth certificate.

  • The Claimant’s mother stated that the wage earner is actively involved in the Claimant’s life, contributing financially to her care and housing, looking after her when needed, and taking her to doctors’ visits, and that the Claimant and the wage earner have a strong emotional bond. According to the Claimant’s mother, the wage earner voluntarily signed the Claimant’s birth certificate knowing that he did not have a biological relationship to the child.

Under the Social Security Act (Act), an individual may be eligible for child’s insurance benefits if she is the “child” of the insured, as defined in section 216(e) of the Act, and was dependent on the insured when the application for benefits was filed. Section 216(e)(1) of the Act defines a “child” as “the child or legally adopted child of an individual.”

Sections 216(h)(2)-(3) of the Act provide the analytical framework that the agency must follow when determining whether a child is the “child” of the insured. The Act directs the agency to “apply such law as would be applied in determining the devolution of intestate personal property by the courts of the State in which [the insured] is domiciled at the time [the applicant child] files application.” Consequently, to be the “child” of the insured, the Claimant must be able to inherit from the insured under state law. In considering whether a child may inherit intestate under state law, the agency applies the same laws and standard of proof as a state court would use and does not require a claimant to obtain a state court determination of paternity.

Hawaii Law

The Claimant qualifies as the wage earner’s “child” because she could inherit intestate property from the wage earner under Hawaii law.

The UPC also provides that the parent and child relationship may be established under chapter 584 of Hawaii’s Uniform Parentage Act (UPA).

The evidence here supports a finding that the Claimant is the wage earner’s natural child under Hawaii law.

The Claimant meets the definition of “child” under section 216(e) of the Act. Pursuant to Hawaii’s UPA, the Claimant can show that she is the child of the wage earner because the statement of Claimant’s mother regarding the child’s biological parentage would not rebut the presumption that the wage earner is the Claimant’s legal father. Therefore, according to Hawaii’s Uniform Probate Code, the Claimant would be able to inherit intestate from the wage earner, meeting the criteria for an eligible “child” under section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Act. Because the Claimant would be able to inherit intestate from the wage earner under Hawaii intestacy law, the legitimacy criterion is satisfied and she is deemed dependent on the wage earner. The agency need not wait for an adjudication of paternity by a state court because the agency applies the same law and standards as the state court. Thus, the Claimant is eligible for child’s insurance benefits.

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED

You asked whether the statement of Juliet (Claimant’s mother) that Herbert (wage earner) is not the biological father of Abegail (Claimant) is clear and convincing evidence rebutting the presumption of paternity under Hawaii’s Uniform Parentage Act, making the Claimant ineligible for benefits on the wage earner’s record.

SHORT ANSWER

No, the mother’s statement that the wage earner is not the Claimant’s biological father would not rebut the presumption of paternity under Hawaii law. The agency relies on the same legal standards as a Hawaii court would apply. As the wage earner’s legal child under the Uniform Parentage Act, the Claimant is entitled to child’s insurance benefits on the wage earner’s record.

SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE

The wage earner Herbert married the Claimant’s mother Juliet on June 17, 1996. Claimant Abegail was born on April. The Claimant’s mother and the wage earner have remained married but have lived separately since December, 2005.

According to the Claimant’s mother, the wage earner is not the Claimant’s biological father although he is listed as the father on the birth certificate. The Claimant’s mother stated that the wage earner is actively involved in the Claimant’s life, contributing financially to her care and housing, looking after her when needed, and taking her to doctors’ visits, and that the Claimant and the wage earner have a strong emotional bond. According to the Claimant’s mother, the wage earner voluntarily signed the Claimant’s birth certificate knowing that he did not have a biological relationship to the child.

ANALYSIS

  1. Federal Law

Under the Social Security Act (Act), an individual may be eligible for child’s insurance benefits if she is the “child” of the insured, as defined in section 216(e) of the Act, and was dependent on the insured when the application for benefits was filed. Section 202(d)(1) of the Act; 20 C.F.R. § 404.350. Section 216(e)(1) of the Act defines a “child” as “the child or legally adopted child of an individual.” Sections 216(h)(2)-(3) of the Act provide the analytical framework that the agency must follow when determining whether a child is the “child” of the insured. The Act directs the agency to “apply such law as would be applied in determining the devolution of intestate personal property by the courts of the State in which [the insured] is domiciled at the time [the applicant child] files application.” Section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Act; 20 C.F.R. 404.355(a)(1). A child who cannot inherit may nonetheless be eligible for child’s insurance benefits under limited circumstances, none of which are relevant here. 1 Consequently, to be the “child” of the insured, the Claimant must be able to inherit from the insured under state law. In considering whether a child may inherit intestate under state law, the agency applies the same laws and standard of proof as a state court would use and does not require a claimant to obtain a state court determination of paternity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(b).

If a claimant satisfies the definition of “child” under section 216(e) of the Act, she must also show that she “was dependent upon” the insured when she filed her application, in order to be eligible for benefits. Section 202(d)(1)(C)(i) of the Act. A child is “deemed” dependent on the wage earner if the child is “legitimate” or if the wage earner was living with or contributing to the support of the child at the time of the application. Section 202(d)(3) of the Act. A claimant can satisfy the legitimacy criterion by meeting the requirements of sections 216(h)(2)(B) or 216(h)(3), see id., or by meeting the intestacy requirements of section 216(h)(2)(A). 20 C.F.R. § 404.361(a), see also Matthews v. Lucas 427 U.S. 495, 515 n.17 (1976); Social Security Ruling (SSR) 77-2c at n.2, SSR 79-35.

  1. Hawaii Law

The Claimant qualifies as the wage earner’s “child” because she could inherit intestate property from the wage earner under Hawaii law. See Section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Act. Hawaii’s Uniform Probate Code (UPC) provides that children may inherit by intestate succession 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 chapter 584 of Hawaii’s Uniform Parentage Act (UPA). Id. The evidence here supports a finding that the Claimant is the wage earner’s natural child under Hawaii law.

  1. Establishing Parent-Child Relationship Under the Uniform Parentage Act

Pursuant to Hawaii’s UPA, a man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if:

  1. the child is born during the man’s marriage to the child’s natural mother, or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, invalidity or divorce;

  2. an invalid marriage before the child’s birth occurred and certain conditions are met;

  3. an invalid marriage after the child’s birth occurred and certain conditions are met;

  4. the man receives the minor child into his home and openly holds out the child as his natural child;

  5. genetic testing does not exclude the possibility of his paternity of the child; or

  6. he voluntarily signs a written acknowledgement of paternity under oath, which is filed with the department of health.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 584-4(a). The wage earner is the Claimant’s presumed father under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 584-4(a)(1) because the Claimant was born during the marriage of her mother and the wage earner. 2 A presumption under 584-4(a) may be rebutted in an appropriate action only by clear and convincing evidence. The statute specifies that “[t]he presumption is rebutted by a court decree establishing paternity of the child by another man.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 584-4(b).

Hawaii courts have considered whether evidence rebuts the presumption of paternity under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 584-4 in three published decisions, each time in the context of a child custody or support dispute. See Doe v. Doe, 52 P.3d 255 (Haw. 2002); Inoue v. Inoue, 185 P.3d 834 (Haw. Ct. App. 2008); Child Support Enforcement Agency, State of Hawaii v. Doe, 963 P.2d 1135 (Haw. Ct. App. 1998). In two of these cases, the courts resolved the legal issues without weighing the evidence to determine whether it met the clear and convincing evidence standard. See Doe, 52 P.3d at 265, 267; Inoue, 185 P.3d at 843-45. In the third case, Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA), the appellate court held that the evidence offered was clear and convincing and therefore rebutted the presumption of paternity. CSEA, 963 P.2d at 1146-47.

The court in CSEA recognized that the Supreme Court of Hawaii defined clear and convincing evidence as follows:

“[C]lear and convincing” evidence may be defined as an intermediate standard of proof greater than a preponderance of the evidence, but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt required in criminal cases. It is that degree of proof which will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the allegations sought to be established, and requires the existence of a fact be highly probable.

CSEA, 963 P.2d at 1146-47. In CSEA, the child’s mother was married when child was conceived, but the evidence showed that the mother was separated from her husband and did not have sexual relations with him for a year-long period ending two months before the child’s birth. Id. Both the mother and her husband offered evidence that another man was the father; the husband disavowed that he was the child’s father; and the child’s birth certificate did not name the husband. Id. Here, by contrast, the wage earner’s name appears on the Claimant’s birth certificate, and the evidence submitted to the agency indicates that he treats the Claimant like a daughter, contributing to her care and financial support. A Hawaii court could conclude that the statement of the Claimant’s mother here is not sufficient to rebut the presumption of paternity, reasoning from the contrary holding in CSEA. 3

Moreover, the distinctions between CSEA and this case are particularly significant in light of the purpose of the UPA—to establish legal fathers for children born out of wedlock, rather than to determine the biological fathers of those children. Doe, 52 P.3d at 261-62. In Doe, the Hawaii Supreme Court expressly overruled the conclusion of the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) that the purpose of Haw. Rev. Stat. § 584 is to “permit a ‘presumptively legitimate child of questionable parentage’ to ‘know the truth of her [or his] parentage [.]’” Id. (internal citation omitted). Instead, the Supreme Court held:

The fundamental purposes of chapter 584 are “to provide substantive legal equality for all children regardless of the marital status of their parents” and to protect the rights and ensure the obligations of parents of children born out of wedlock. . . . The substantive legal rights that illegitimate children were denied in many states included such rights as the right to intestate succession, the right to benefit from a statutory cause of action typically accorded to legitimate children, and the right to be the beneficiary of child support from the father. For purposes of this discussion, 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. Although this goal will usually overlap with the desire of a child to know the identity of his or her biological father, the two are not always the same.

Id. (internal citations omitted) (emphasis supplied).

Significantly, the Doe court held that when a marital child presumption (section 584-4(a)(1)) conflicts with a biological parentage presumption from genetic testing (section 584-4(a)(5)), the genetic test result does not, as a matter of law, control. Id. at 262. The Doe court also held that collateral estoppel barred the child’s mother from offering genetic evidence that one man was the child’s biological father when prior divorce proceedings had determined that another man, the mother’s husband when the child was born, was the legal father. Id. at 265. These holdings underscore the Doe court’s conclusion that the purpose of the UPA is to establish a legal parent to whom the child may turn for inheritance and support, and not necessarily to determine biological parentage.

The Hawaii appellate court’s decision in Inoue v. Inoue is also instructive. Applying the UPA and relying on Doe, the Inoue court held that the family court correctly prevented a mother from claiming that her former husband was not the legal father of her child, even though he “was indisputably not [the child’s] biological father.” Inoue, 185 P.3d at 842-47. This decision further supports the principle that biological parentage does not dictate the parent-child relationship under Hawaii law. See id.

Here, barring the Claimant from inheriting from the wage earner under the intestacy provisions based solely on biology would undermine the purpose of Hawaii’s UPA. In contrast, a holding endorsing the wage earner’s desire to be the Claimant’s legal father (evidenced by his willingness to place his name on her birth certificate and provide financial support), would further support the UPA’s goal of providing children with legal fathers. Therefore, a Hawaii court likely would conclude that the wage earner is the Claimant’s legal father under § 584-4(a) and that her mother’s statement regarding her biological parentage is not clear and convincing evidence of legal paternity. Such a finding would support the purpose of the UPA.

The Hawaii appellate court’s decision in Inoue v. Inoue is also instructive. Applying the UPA and relying on Doe, the Inoue court held that the family court correctly prevented a mother from claiming that her former husband was not the legal father of her child, even though he “was indisputably not [the child’s] biological father.” Inoue, 185 P.3d at 842-47. This decision further supports the principle that biological parentage does not dictate the parent-child relationship under Hawaii law. See id.

Here, barring the Claimant from inheriting from the wage earner under the intestacy provisions based solely on biology would undermine the purpose of Hawaii’s UPA. In contrast, a holding endorsing the wage earner’s desire to be the Claimant’s legal father (evidenced by his willingness to place his name on her birth certificate and provide financial support), would further support the UPA’s goal of providing children with legal fathers. Therefore, a Hawaii court likely would conclude that the wage earner is the Claimant’s legal father under § 584-4(a) and that her mother’s statement regarding her biological parentage is not clear and convincing evidence of legal paternity. Such a finding would support the purpose of the UPA.

CONCLUSION

The Claimant meets the definition of “child” under section 216(e) of the Act. Pursuant to Hawaii’s UPA, the Claimant can show that she is the child of the wage earner because the statement of Claimant’s mother regarding the child’s biological parentage would not rebut the presumption that the wage earner is the Claimant’s legal father. Therefore, according to Hawaii’s Uniform Probate Code, the Claimant would be able to inherit intestate from the wage earner, meeting the criteria for an eligible “child” under section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Act. Because the Claimant would be able to inherit intestate from the wage earner under Hawaii intestacy law, the legitimacy criterion is satisfied and she is deemed dependent on the wage earner. The agency need not wait for an adjudication of paternity by a state court because the agency applies the same law and standards as the state court. 4 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(b). Thus, the Claimant is eligible for child’s insurance benefits.


Footnotes:

[1]

These alternative bases for eligibility require that the child be the “son or daughter” of the insured. See Section 216(h)(3) of the Act; 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(a)(3)-(4). For an applicant child to establish entitlement to benefits under these provisions, he or she must be the biological child of the insured. See, e.g., Social Security Ruling 89-9c, 1989 WL 251366 (1989) (discussing Luke for Luke v. Bowen, 868 F.2d 974 (8th Cir. 1989)).

[2]

The presumptions in Haw. Rev. Stat. § 584-4(a)(4) and (6) may also apply because the wage earner signed the Claimant’s birth certificate and provides care and financial support to the Claimant. Because the condition in Haw. Rev. Stat. § 584-4(a)(1) clearly is met, however, it is not necessary to analyze whether a presumption also arises under the conditions set forth in these other subsections.

[3]

In a case concerning the probate of a will decided in 1928, the Hawaii Supreme Court found that the presumption of a husband’s paternity was rebutted where the mother had been living separately from her husband and cohabitating with another as man and wife when the child was conceived and born, and the mother never separated from this other man. McMillan v. Peters, 30 Haw. 574, at *4 (Haw. 1928). M~ does not control the outcome here primarily because the case pre-dates enactment of the UPA, and therefore does not provide guidance as to how Hawaii courts interpret the clear and convincing evidence standard of the UPA. SSR 72-25 is distinguishable for similar reasons as it also pre-dates passage of the UPA and interprets prior law. In that case, a worker domiciled in Hawaii denied paternity of a child born to his wife, who resided in Asia. The SSR noted that courts of Hawaii had not ruled on the question of whether blood