This memorandum is in response to your request for an opinion regarding the validity
of an adoption of a person over the age of twenty-one in Connecticut, for the purposes
of establishing entitlement to Childhood Disability Benefits on the record of the
adoptive father. For the reasons discussed below, we believe that the adoption in
this case is likely valid, provided certain assumptions based on the information received
The applicant, Vincent, was born on October in Port Chester, New York. Vincent is
the biological child of Danielle, deceased, and Joseph, whereabouts unknown. On June
11, 2004, Roger father of Danielle and grandfather of Vincent, received immediate
temporary custody of Vincent by the Connecticut Probate Court. On February 13, 2013,
Roger adopted Vincent, who was twenty-four years old on that date. The adoption took
place in Connecticut, where Roger and Vincent live.
Vincent is currently receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits and is eligible
for Childhood Disability Benefits on his biological mother’s record, with an onset
date of July 11, 2003. Roger, who receives retirement/old age benefits, has applied
for auxiliary child benefits on Vincent’s behalf. Vincent would receive a higher benefit
on Roger’s record than he is currently receiving.
Under the Social Security Act, a child is entitled to Childhood Disability Benefits
on the earnings record of an insured person who is entitled to old-age or disability
benefits or who has died if the child meets five criteria. Social Security Act § 202(d)(1),
42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a). Specifically, the child must (1) be
the insured person’s child, based on a relationship defined in 20 C.F.R. sections
404.355 through 404.359; (2) be dependent upon the insured person, as defined in 20
C.F.R. sections 404.360 through 404.365; (3) apply; (4) be unmarried; and (5) be under
age eighteen, have a disability that began before age twenty-two, or qualify as a
full-time student. 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a).
In this case, the applicant meets criterion (3) because he has applied for Childhood
Disability Benefits on his adoptive father’s (grandfather) record. He also meets criterion
(5) because he has previously established that he has been disabled since July 11,
2003, prior to his twenty-second birthday. The information provided does not specify
whether the applicant is married, although it appears that the applicant lives with
his adoptive father. Assuming the applicant is unmarried, he satisfies criterion (4).
As an adopted child, whether the applicant meets criterion (2) depends on whether
he was legally adopted by the number holder (his grandfather) before or after the
number holder became entitled to benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.362. The information provided
does not specify Roger’s age; however, the fact that he filed for auxiliary child
benefits and adopted Vincent on the same day – February 13, 2013 – suggests that Roger
adopted Vincent after Roger became entitled to old-age benefits. If Vincent was adopted
by Roger before Roger became entitled to old-age benefits, he automatically meets
criterion (2). 20 C.F.R. § 404.362(a). Additionally, Vincent is not Roger’s natural
child or step-child and was over age eighteen when adoption proceedings started.
Assuming Vincent was adopted after Roger became entitled to benefits, Vincent likely
meets criterion (2) because the information provided suggests that Vincent has lived
with Roger since Roger obtained temporary custody of Vincent in 2004, and, thus, that
Vincent was living with Roger for the year immediately preceding the month in which
his adoption was issued. If Vincent was not living with Roger for the year preceding
the month in which he was adopted, he will still meet criterion (2) if he was receiving
at least one-half of his support, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.366, from Roger during
the year immediately preceding the month in which his adoption was issued. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.362(b)(ii). This section also requires that the adoption be issued by a court
of competent jurisdiction within the United States, which is the case here, as Vincent’s
adoption was issued by the Connecticut Probate Court. Thus, if the adoption is valid,
Vincent likely satisfies the dependency requirement in criterion (2).
The remaining issue is whether the Vincent is Roger’s child as required by criterion
(1). The regulations at 20 C.F.R. § 404.356 provide that a legally adopted child qualifies
as the child of the number holder. This section further explains that, in determining
whether the child was legally adopted, the Commissioner applies the adoption laws
of the state where the adoption took place.
Because the adoption in this case took place in Connecticut, this adoption must be
analyzed under Connecticut law. Connecticut’s adoption statute provides:
Any person eighteen years of age or older may, by written agreement with another person
at least eighteen years of age but younger than himself or herself, unless the other
person is his or her wife, husband, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the whole or
half-blood, adopt the other person as his or her child, provided the written agreement
shall be approved by the court of probate for the district in which the adopting parent
resides . . . .
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-734(a). Following a hearing at which the court finds that the
adoption is for the welfare of the adopted person and the public interest, the court
will issue an order of approval and record the agreement and order. Id. at § 45a-734(b). Upon the order approving the agreement, the adopted person becomes
the legal child of the adopting person. Id. Section 45a-734(c) governs adoption by a married person; however, there is no indication
in the information provided that Roger is married.
In this case, Roger adopted his biological grandson, Vincent, who was over eighteen
at the time of the adoption. In the Order of Adoption, the probate court judge made
specific findings that Vincent was at least eighteen years of age and younger than
Roger, who was also over eighteen years of age, and that Vincent was not Roger’s wife,
husband, brother, sister, uncle, or aunt of the whole or half-blood. Although the
information provided does not include an Agreement of Adoption, the order references
such an agreement several times. The order also includes a finding that approval
of the agreement will be for the welfare of the adopted person, Vincent, and for the
public interest. Presuming that these findings are reasonable and that the probate
court would not have issued the order of adoption if the case did not meet the requirements
of the statute, it appears that the applicant’s adoption is valid.
The applicant is entitled to Childhood Disability Benefits on the record of his adoptive
father if he is unmarried, lived with his adoptive father for the year immediately
preceding the month in which his adoption was issued, and his adoption was valid under
Connecticut law. Assuming that Vincent is unmarried and has lived with Roger since
Roger received temporary custody, and that the Connecticut Probate Court approved
a proper Agreement of Adoption, Vincent is Roger’s legally adopted child and, thus,
entitled to Childhood Disability Benefits on Roger’s record.
Regional Chief Counsel, Region VIII
Molly E. Carter
Assistant Regional Counsel