PR 01110.006 California
A. PR 85-003 Michael D. S~. ~ - Legitimated Child
DATE: February 6, 1985
LEGITIMACY AND LEGITIMATION — LEGITIMATING ACTS BY PARENTS — CALIFORNIA
CALIFORNIA — California's Recognition of Actions in Another State (Massachusetts) Establishing a Parent-Child Relationship
The wage earner died a California domiciliary but the claimant child was born and lives in Massachusetts. While in Massachusetts the wage earner had taken the child into his home and openly held her out as his natural child. California courts distinguish between legal and factual significance of actions of a wage earner in resolving a paternity question involving such circumstances. The courts have determined that acts, which while not having the effect of conferring the status of legitimacy under the laws of the given jurisdiction, will nonetheless confer upon a child de facto legitimacy if the acts meet the California law test for such status. (S~ , Michael D., ~ — RAIX (T~), to RC, SSA, 02/06/85. )
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 embodied within the Restatement of Conflicts of Laws. See, e.g., In re Lund's Estate, cited above, at 649. That "general rule" apparently is reflected in POMS.)
Although all of these cases were decided under former Civil Code section 230 (governing legitimation of children), there is no reason to believe that adoption of the Uniform Parentage Act in California would cause the courts to alter their rule of law. The premise of the courts' holding is in no way dependent upon the particular elements of the state's standard for legitimating a child or establishing a parent and child relationship. The courts were resolving a conflicts of law question: whether the legal effect of the facts would be adjudged under California law or under the law of the jurisdiction where the acts occurred. Once that conflicts question is resolved, the courts would simply apply the appropriate local law.
Because the wage earner died in 1979, and considering that at least some of his actions vis-a-vis Michelle occurred during (and perhaps after) 1976, California courts would apply the Uniform Parentage Act (Civil Code section 7000 et seq.) in determining whether Michelle would have intestate succession rights to the deceased wage earner's estate. 20 C.F.R. § 404.354(b); Cal. Probate Code § 255(a), (d); GC Opinion re Joseph M. C~, September 6, 1983. Because the wage earner and Cora neither married nor attempted to marry, the only rebuttable presumption of paternity potentially applicable to this case is found in section 7004(a) (4) of California's Uniform Parentage Act. That presumption requires that the man have received the child into his home and openly held her out as his natural child. You have already determined that, factually, the wage earner met this standard with respect to Michelle, a conclusion which we believe is amply supported by the evidence you have gathered. Therefore, Michelle would be entitled to child's insurance benefits on the deceased wage earner's account.
Because we have concluded that Michelle may be entitled to benefits based upon California's Uniform Parentage Act, we need not reach the second question which you posed in your opinion request.