TN 3 (04-06)

PR 01015.054 West Virginia

A. PR 05-153 Rebuttal of Presumption of Parent-Child Relationship Between the Number Holder (Ronald C. P~) and Shiann C. M. P~, SSN: ~

DATE: May 3, 2005

1. SYLLABUS

While the Lord Mansfield rule may bar acceptance of the testimony of the mother and her husband that they had been separated for more than a year prior to the claimant's birth, testimony from third parties and evidence of the number holder's sterility may serve as clear and satisfactory evidence to overcome the presumption of parternity in this case.

2. OPINION

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

This is in response to your March 30, 2005 request for an opinion as to (1) whether the presumption of legitimacy between the Number Holder and Shiann C. M. P~ (Shiann) has been rebutted under West Virginia law; (2) whether a parent-child relationship between the Number Holder and Shiann has been established; (3) the effective date of that relationship; and (4) whether Shiann is entitled to retroactive benefits.

CONCLUSION

We have reviewed the information that you provided and have researched the relevant provisions of West Virginia law regarding the presumption of legitimacy of a child born during a valid marriage. Based on our research, we have concluded that the evidence is sufficient to overcome the presumption that Shiann is the Number Holder's child. Accordingly, Shiann is not entitled to child's benefits under the Number Holder's account.

The Office of the Regional Chief Counsel
Office of the General Counsel, Region III
P.O. Box 41777, Philadelphia, PA 19101

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following is a summary of the relevant facts in this matter. The Number Holder married Anna M. M~ (Anna M.) on December 26, 1989 in Ohio. Shiann was born during the marriage on January 7, 2004. Shiann's birth certificate does not identify the father.

Applications for a Social Security number (NUMI) for Shiann were completed on January 28, 2004 and November 9, 2004. While the first NUMI does not indicate any father information, the subsequent NUMI indicates that the father is unknown.

The Number Holder has been receiving disability benefits since May 2001. Anna M. filed applications for wife's and child's benefits based on the Number Holder's account on November 9, 2004. On November 17, 2004, a West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources employee, Ms. R~, contacted the Agency because Anna M. admitted that she and the Number Holder had been living separate and apart for more than one year. Ms. R~ further advised the Agency that both the Number Holder and Anna M. admitted that Shiann was not the Number Holder's child. In a later report of contact, Ms. R~ advised the Agency that Anna M. stated that she and the Number Holder were getting a divorce, and that the Number Holder was demanding paternity testing to prove that the child was not his, in light of a vasectomy that he underwent years ago.

Based on this report of contact, an Agency employee met with the Number Holder and Anna M. on December 8, 2004, to confirm Ms. R~' information. During the meeting, the Number Holder and Anna M. signed a joint Statement of Claimant and Other Person in which the couple attests that they were separated from November 21, 2002, through September 2004. During this time period, the Number Holder and Anna M. did not see or visit one another.

In fact, Anna M. stated that she lived with Shiann's biological father for a portion of this time period. The Number Holder also provided medical records documenting that he had a vasectomy.

DISCUSSION

Child's benefits may be granted based on the earnings record of an insured person who is entitled to disability benefits if the applicant is the insured's child, and is dependent on the insured. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a) (2004). In determining whether an applicant is the insured's child, the Commissioner will apply the inheritance law of the state in which the insured was domiciled at the time the application was filed. 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(2)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.355(b)(1) (2004). The Number Holder was domiciled in West Virginia at the time Shiann's mother filed the applications for benefits. Accordingly, West Virginia law applies.

In West Virginia, paternity must be established by clear and convincing evidence, defined as "that measure of degree of proof which will produce in the mind of the trier of facts a firm belief or conviction as to the allegations sought to be established." Moore v. Goode, 375 S.E.2d 549,

554-55 (W. Va. 1988) (citing Wheeling Dollar Savings & Trust Co. v. Singer, 250 S.E.2d 369, 374 (W. Va. 1987)). Ordinarily, there is a strong presumption that a child born during a marriage is the husband's child. Young v. Prichard, 542 S.E.2d 925, 929 (W. Va. 2000). Indeed, West Virginia appears to still follow the Lord Mansfield rule, which bars