TN 1 (01-06)

PR 01110.005 Arkansas

A. PR 04-342 Arkansas State Law - Establishment of Paternity Based Upon Birth Certificate, NH Maurice J~, SSN ~ - REPLY

DATE: September 23, 2004


In a case where the number holder was domiciled in Tennessee at the time of his death, but the birth certificate submitted to establish a relationship between the claimant and that number holder was issued in another state in which the claimant was still domiciled, Tennessee courts would defer to that other state's law under the doctrine of "most significant relationship".

In Arkansas, a claimant's birth certificate showing the deceased number holder as the father is not sufficient to establish acknowledgement of paternity without evidence that the number holder provided written consent for his name to be placed on the birth certificate as required by state law.


The claimant, Michelle D. M~ , was born on December 16, 1974, to Cora M~ (D~). No father's name was listed on Michelle's birth certificate. Ms. D~ has filed a claim for child's insurance benefits on Michelle's behalf on the account of Michael D. S~, who died on March 29, 1979. Cora has stated that Michael orally acknowledged Michelle as his daughter to their friends and relatives. The oral acknowledgement was verified by the deceased wage earner's mother, sister, and brother. At the time of Michelle's birth, the wage earner was married to another woman, Mary S~ (M~ ). According to statements in the claims file, their marriage had not been stable for some period of time before Michelle was born. After her birth, the wage earner left his wife for good. He moved in with Cora and Michelle and lived with them as a family for two to four years following Michelle's birth (although some statements indicate that this living arrangement may have been temporarily suspended a number of times during that period). Sometime in 1977 Michael moved to California, while Cora and Michelle remained on the east coast. He died domiciled in California. (One statement from Cora indicates that he may have returned to live with Michelle and her for a few months in 1979; however, no one disputes that his domicile at the time of his death was California.) No written acknowledgement by Michael of Michelle's paternity has been located.

You sought our advice as to whether Michelle might be entitled to benefits on the decease wage earner's account on either of two theories: (1) on the basis of a parent and child relationship under California law, even though Michelle was never in California; or (2) under Massachusetts' legitimation statute, although the wage earner died a California domiciliary. You correctly pointed out that under section 216(h) (2) (A) of the Social Security Act, California law would be applicable to this claim, because the wage earner died a California domiciliary. The issue, therefore, is whether California probate courts would apply California substantive law or would look to the substantive law of another jurisdiction in determining whether Michelle was the deceased wage earner's "child."

Your first question is whether, as a matter of law, actions which the wage earner undertook exclusively in another state will suffice to establish a parent and child relationship for purposes of intestate succession in California. California courts have consistently held that acts performed by a father outside of California, which acts would not have the effect of conferring the status of legitimacy upon the child under the laws of the jurisdiction where the acts occurred, will nonetheless confer upon the child a de facto status of legitimacy if the acts meet the California law test for such status, and will thereafter ripen into the legal status of legitimacy upon the father's establishment of a California domicile. See, e.g., In re Lund's Estate, 26 Cal. 2d 472, 159 P.2d 643 (1945); Blythe v. Ayres, 96 Cal. 532, 31 P. 915 (1892); Estate of Bassi, 234 Cal. App. 2d 529, 44 Cal. Rptr. 541 (1965); Wolf v. Gall, 32 Cal. App. 286, 163 P. 346 (1916); see also Kaliski v. District Director of Immigration and Nationality Service, 620 F.2d 214 (9th Cir. 1980); GC Opinions re Clem J~ , C-6637, December 1, 1948, and Ramon P~, August 4, 1965. The courts distinguish between the immediate legal significance of the acts, which is dependent upon the laws of the jurisdiction where they occurred, and their factual significance, which remains forever and may later become controlling for purposes of California law. In California's view, the factual significance of the acts continues unabated wherever the man may go; if he subsequently becomes domiciled and dies in California, that factual basis may blossom into the child's acquisition of a certain legal status for purposes of sharing in his estate as his "issue." (In adopting this perspective for purposes of California law, the courts have acknowledged that California is not espousing the "general rule," as emb