This case involves a claim for child's benefits, filed in July, 1998, on behalf of
Jared G. L~. The claim was filed on the record of Matthew W. B~, who resides in Maine
and has been eligible for Social Security Disability benefits since December, 1995.
Jared G. L~ was born in March, 1997. In January, 1998 paternity was established through
DNA tests. Also in January, 1998, Mr. B~ executed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity
with the State of Maine Department of Human Services.
You have requested our opinion concerning the effective date of a parent-child relationship
for the purposes of the Social Security Administration. Specifically you have questioned
whether, under the Social Security Act, a parent-child relationship can be found to
exist prior to January, 1998, the date when paternity was determined. For the reasons
discussed below, it is our opinion that the parent-child relationship in this case,
can be found to exist prior to January, 1998.
Section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act provides that in determining whether
an applicant is the child of an insured individual for Title II purposes, the Commissioner
shall 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 individual is domiciled
at the time such application is filed.
The evidence contained in the case file reveals that Mr. B~ was domiciled in Maine
at the time the application was filed and thus, the Maine intestacy statute is the
appropriate law to use in determining the applicant's relationship to and rights from
The Maine intestacy statute specifically provides a definition of a child. M.R.S.A.
18-A § 2-109. In applying the facts of this case to this statute it is clear that,
as a result of the DNA tests, as well as the acknowledgement of paternity, Jared G.
L~ would be found to be the child of Matthew W. B~. See 18-A M.R.S.A. § 2-109 (2)(iii).
However, on its face this statute does not indicate whether there is any retroactivity
to the determination of this relationship.
While the intestacy statute is silent on this issue, our examination of other relevant
statutes finds a definite intent to provide retroactivity to the effective date of
a parent-child relationship. 19-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1553 and 1554 indicate that once paternity
has been established, a father can be liable for support expenses for the previous
six years, including the expenses of pregnancy. See also Smith v. Lint, 37 Me. 546 (1854). Additionally, 22 M.R.S.A. § 2761 states that, following an acknowledgement
of paternity, the child's birth certificate must be changed to reflect this acknowledgement.
There does not appear to be any specific time limit on these changes. Thus, clearly
Maine's statutory scheme demonstrates an intent, once a parent-child relationship
has been established, to provide retroactivity to this relationship.
Therefore, in our opinion, based on the relevant Maine statutes and case law, the
effective date of a parent-child relationship can, in some cases, be retroactive to
birth and even before. Here, we believe that the parent-child relationship could clearly
be found prior to January, 1998.