TN 10 (05-11)

PR 01005.045 South Carolina

A. PR 11-090 Effect of Statements Made by Number Holder and Claimant’s Biological Mother in Rebutting Presumption of Paternity – South Carolina Number Holder – Harold C~ Claimant – Samuel C~

DATE: April 25, 2011

1. SYLLABUS:

We believe Claimant is not NH’s child for the purposes of CIB or WIB on NH’s earnings record. Also, South Carolina courts have recognized that the mere presence of the alleged father’s name on the child’s birth certificate is insufficient to prove paternity. Even assuming Claimant’s birth certificate creates a presumption of paternity, we believe the other evidence submitted sufficiently rebuts any such presumption.  A presumption of paternity based on a birth certificate containing the signature of the putative father may be rebutted by a preponderance of evidence.

In this case, the family court order shows both NH and Claimant’s mother acknowledged that Claimant is not NH’s biological child. Signed Form SSA-795s from NH and Claimant’s mother also indicate neither NH nor Claimant’s mother considered NH to be Claimant’s natural father and NH did not meet Claimant’s mother until after she was already pregnant with Claimant. In signing these forms, NH and Claimant’s mother declared under penalty of perjury that their statements were true and correct to the best of their knowledge. These documents constitute acceptable evidence that would likely rebut any presumption of paternity that arose from Claimant’s birth certificate identifying NH as his father. 

2. OPINION

QUESTION

You asked whether the claimant is the child of the number holder for the purposes of child’s insurance benefits (CIB) and wife’s insurance benefits (WIB) where the claimant’s birth certificate lists the number holder as the father, but the number holder and the claimant’s biological mother have stated the number holder is not the claimant’s biological father.

OPINION

We believe the claimant is not the child of the number holder for the purposes of CIB or WIB. The claimant’s birth certificate does not include the number holder’s signature and thus does not create a rebuttable presumption of paternity, and statements from the number holder and the claimant’s biological mother stating the number holder is not the claimant’s father likely are sufficient to rebut any presumption.

BACKGROUND

According to the information provided, Sandra C~ (Claimant’s mother) gave birth to Samuel C~ (Claimant) in South Carolina on September 2, 1997. Claimant’s birth certificate identifies Harold C~, the number holder (NH), as his father but does not contain NH’s signature. On December 24, 1997, Claimant’s mother married NH. In April 2010, NH applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB).  NH did not list any children on his DIB claim. The Social Security Administration (SSA) approved NH’s DIB application with an onset date of March 19, 2010. On December 27, 2010, Claimant’s mother applied for WIB for herself and for CIB for Claimant on NH’s earnings record. 

NH submitted a copy of a temporary court order from the family court in Greenville County, South Carolina.  In this order, a family court judge summarized a September 7, 2005, hearing that addressed whether NH was responsible for child support payments or entitled to visitation rights with Claimant. The judge noted both NH and Claimant’s mother freely and voluntarily admitted NH is not Claimant’s biological father. The judge found Claimant was aware that NH was not his father, concluded no visitation was allowed, and suspended any previous orders of child support.  NH also completed and signed a Form SSA-795, in which he explained that he sought joint custody, but because Claimant’s mother told the court NH was not Claimant’s biological father, the court ended child support payments and visitation rights. Claimant’s mother also completed and signed a Form SSA-795, explaining that she met NH when she was already pregnant, but she and NH decided NH would raise Claimant as his own child. Claimant’s mother additionally stated in this form that “we signed the birth certificate,” though the copy provided, identified as a photocopy of the original birth certificate, did not include NH’s signature.

DISCUSSION

A claimant may qualify for WIB if she has in her care at the time of filing her application a child entitled to CIB. See Social Security Act (Act) § 202(b)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R. § 404.330(c) (2010).All subsequent references to the Code of Federal Regulations are for the 2010 edition unless otherwise noted.  To qualify for CIB on the earnings record of an insured individual entitled to DIB, a claimant must be that individual’s “child.” See Act § 202(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(1). “Child” includes the natural child, adopted child, or stepchild of an insured individual. See Act § 216(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.354. The information provided does not indicate NH adopted Claimant. See Act §§ 202(d)(1), 216(e)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.356. Claimant also is not NH’s stepchild because the record indicates Claimant does not meet the dependency requirements, i.e., Claimant was not living with or receiving at least one-half of his support from NH at the time of his CIB application. See Act § 202(d)(1)(C)(i), (d)(4); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.357, 404.360, 404.363. Thus, Claimant must show he is NH’s natural child in order for Claimant to qualify for CIB on NH’s earnings record and for Claimant’s mother to qualify for WIB.

A claimant may qualify as the natural child of an insured individual under the Act if the claimant could inherit the insured individual’s intestate personal property under the law of the state in which the insured individual was domiciled when the application for benefits was filed. See Act § 216(h)(2)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(a)(1), (b)(1), (b)(3). SSA records indicate NH resided in South Carolina when Claimant’s mother filed the WIB and CIB applications.  Therefore, we look to South Carolina intestacy law to determine whether Claimant is NH’s child under section 216(h)(2)(A).

South Carolina intestacy law provides that an individual’s issue are entitled to intestate succession. See S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-103 (2010). All subsequent references to the Code of Laws of South Carolina Annotated are for the 2010 edition unless otherwise noted. “Issue” includes all lineal descendants with the relationship of parent and child at each generation being determined by the definitions of child and parent contained in the South Carolina Probate Code. See S.C. Code Ann. § 62-1-201(21).  For the purposes of intestate succession, a person born out of wedlock can establish a parent-child relationship with his father if the natural parents participated in a marriage ceremony before or after the child was born, or if paternity was established in an adjudication. See S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-109(2). While Claimant’s mother and NH married after Claimant was born, Claimant still must show he is NH’s natural child to determine whether claimant could inherit NH’s intestate personal property

Under South Carolina statutory law, a birth certificate containing the signature of the putative father creates a rebuttable presumption of paternity. Because Claimant’s mother and NH were not married when Claimant was born, we do not believe any presumption of paternity arose due to their marriage. Cf. Fisher v. Tucker, 697 S.E.2d 548, 550 (S.C. 2010) (noting common law presumption that a child born during lawful wedlock is a child of the marriage). See S.C. Code Ann. § 63-17-60(A)(6). Although Claimant’s birth certificate identifies NH as the father and Claimant’s mother indicated both she and NH signed the birth certificate, the photocopy of the birth certificate provided does not contain NH’s signature. Therefore, the birth certificate does not appear to create a presumption of paternity.  South Carolina courts have recognized that the mere presence of the alleged father’s name on the child’s birth certificate is insufficient to prove paternity. See Pinckney v. Warren, 544 S.E.2d 620, 626 (S.C. 2001); Freeman v. Freeman, 473 S.E.2d 467, 472-73 n.4 (S.C. Ct. App. 1996). 

Even assuming Claimant’s birth certificate creates a presumption of paternity, we believe the other evidence submitted sufficiently rebuts any such presumption. A presumption of paternity based on a birth certificate containing the signature of the putative father may be rebutted by a preponderance of evidence. See GN 00306.625. To the best of our knowledge, no South Carolina case law specifically addresses what constitutes a preponderance of evidence in this particular context, though South Carolina has defined a preponderance of evidence in the child welfare context as “evidence which, when fairly considered, is more convincing as to its truth than the evidence in opposition.” S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-20(19).  In light of this definition, case law concerning evidence that is strong enough to rebut the common law presumption of paternity that arises when a child is born during wedlock may be instructive. South Carolina courts have described this common law presumption as “one of the strongest known to law,” Duckett v. Goforth, 649 S.E.2d 72, 81 (S.C. Ct. App. 2007), and thus have required clear evidence of impossibility or something similarly conclusive to overcome the presumption. See Brown v. Ryder Truck Rental, 389 S.E.2d 161, 163 (S.C. Ct. App. 1990). Notably, in Duckett, the record showed the husband signed the birth certificate and that the child was born during lawful wedlock, giving rise to the common law presumption of paternity. Duckett, 649 S.E.2d at 81. Nonetheless, the court in Duckett found affidavits from the husband and wife indicating the husband was not the child’s biological father were sufficient to rebut even the common law presumption of paternity. See id.  Another case concerning the common law presumption of paternity found the parties’ stipulation that the husband was not the biological father could also rebut the common law presumption of paternity. See Mid-South Insurance Co. v. Doe, 274 F. Supp. 2d 757, 763 (D.S.C. 2003). 

The family court order shows both NH and Claimant’s mother acknowledged that Claimant is not NH’s biological child. Signed Form SSA-795s from NH and Claimant’s mother also indicate neither NH nor Claimant’s mother considered NH to be Claimant’s natural father and NH did not meet Claimant’s mother until after she was already pregnant with Claimant. In signing these forms, NH and Claimant’s mother declared under penalty of perjury that their statements were true and correct to the best of their knowledge. These documents constitute acceptable evidence that would likely rebut any presumption of paternity that arose from Claimant’s birth certificate identifying NH as his father. As such, Claimant would not be able to show he was NH’s child under South Carolina intestacy law and therefore would not be able to show he was NH’s child under section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Act.

While the Act identifies additional ways for a claimant to qualify as the insured individual’s child, these other options still require the claimant to be the natural child of the insured, or require evidence that the claimant is the insured’s natural child and that the insured contributed to the claimant’s support at the time the claimant applied for benefits. See Act § 216(h)(2)(B), (3)(B); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.355(a)(2)-(4). Claimant cannot show he was NH’s natural son or show that NH contributed to his support at the time Claimant’s mother applied for WIB and CIB. Thus, Claimant would still not be deemed to be NH’s child under these sections, either. See Act §§ 216(h)(2)(B), (3)(B); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.355(a)(2)-(4); GN 00306.100

CONCLUSION

We believe Claimant is not NH’s child for the purposes of CIB or WIB on NH’s earnings record. 

Sincerely,

Mary A. S~
Regional Chief Counsel
By:__________________
Natalie L~
Assistant R