TN 43 (11-16)

PR 01310.014 Hawaii

A. PR 17-009 Child’s Insurance Benefits for Adopted Adult Child in Hawaii

1. Syllabus

The agency applies the adoption laws of the State where the adoption took place when considering whether a child has been legally adopted. The adoption occurred in Hawaii; therefore, we look to the Hawaii law to determine if the adoption is legal. Under Hawaii law, an adult may adopt another adult if the adult to be adopted provides written consent. After holding a hearing, if the court is satisfied that the adoption is in the best interests of the persons seeking adoption, and there is no reason why the petition should not be granted, the court will approve the adoption agreement and order the adoption. In this case, the Claimant’s adult adoption was valid under Hawaii law. Although the Claimant was over age 18 when she applied for disability benefits, she has a disability that began before age 22 and was unmarried at the time of application. As both the number holder number holder’s (NH’s) adopted child and stepchild, the Claimant is deemed dependent on him. Accordingly, the Claimant is entitled to child’s insurance benefits on the NH’s account, assuming the agency finds her disabled.

2. Opinion

QUESTION

Whether R~ (Claimant) is eligible to receive child’s insurance benefits on the account of T~ (NH), who adopted Claimant as an adult.1

SHORT ANSWER

Yes. Claimant’s adult adoption was valid under Hawaii law. Although she was over age 18 when she applied for disability benefits, she has a disability that began before age 22 and was unmarried at the time of application. As both NH’s adopted child and stepchild, Claimant is deemed dependent on him. Accordingly, Claimant is entitled to child’s insurance benefits on NH’s account, assuming the agency finds her disabled.

SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE

Claimant was born on June XX, 1985 under given name R2~ in Philippines. Claimant’s mother, E~ (formerly D~), married the NH in 2005. On March XX, 2007, when Claimant was 21 years old, a Hawaii Family Court issued an adoption order and decree approving Claimant’s adoption by NH and Claimant’s mother. The decree changed Claimant’s name to R~ and stated that Claimant and her mother both consented to the adoption.

According to information provided by the Kauai office, NH filed for retirement benefits on February XX, 2002; SSA established NH’s entitlement as of February 2012.

On May XX, 2016, Claimant filed for disability benefits, disabled adult child’s benefits on NH’s record, and for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Claimant alleged she had cerebral palsy since 1985, the year of her birth. Claimant is not insured for disability benefits on her own earnings record. Claimant alleges she has never worked, has never married, and has resided in L~, Hawaii, with her mother and stepfather since 2007.

APPLICABLE LAW

A. Federal Law

Under the Social Security Act (Act), an applicant may be eligible for child’s insurance benefits if she is the “child” of the insured, as defined in section 216(e) of the Act. Social Security Act § 202(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350. Section 216(e) of the Act defines a “child” as “the child or legally adopted child of an individual” or a stepchild “who has been such stepchild for not less than one year” before she applied for benefits. Social Security Act § 216(e)(1) & (2); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.356 (“You may be eligible for benefits as the insured’s child if you were legally adopted by the insured”). When considering whether a child has been legally adopted, the agency applies the adoption laws of the State where the adoption took place. 20 C.F.R. § 404.356; Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN 00306.135. An applicant is considered the insured’s stepchild if, after the applicant’s birth, her natural parent married the insured. 20 C.F.R. § 404.357.

In addition to establishing she is the insured individual’s child, the applicant must also: (1) apply for benefits, (2) have a disability that began prior to age 22, (3) be unmarried, and (4) be dependent on the insured individual at the time she filed her application. Social Security Act § 202(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350; POMS GN 00306.001(A). Pursuant to section 202(d)(1), an individual is entitled to child’s insurance benefits in the first month she meets the foregoing criteria. See Social Security Act § 202(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.352(a).

Where an applicant was legally adopted by the insured after he became entitled to old-age benefits and that applicant is also the insured’s stepchild, she is deemed dependent on him. 20 C.F.R. § 404.362(b)(2); POMS GN 00306.137. A stepchild is considered dependent on the insured if she was receiving at least one-half of her support from the insured when she applied for benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.363(a); POMS GN 00306.137.

B. Hawaii Law

Under Hawaii law, an adult may adopt another adult if the adult to be adopted provides written consent. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 578-1, 578-1.5 & 578-2(b). After the adoption, the adopted adult and her adopting parents have a relationship of parent and child, with all of the rights and duties arising from such a relationship. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 578-16. The parties may file a petition in the court of the county in which the applicant resides for approval of the adoption agreement. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 578-1. After holding a hearing, if the court is satisfied that the adoption is in the best interests of the persons seeking adoption, and there is no reason why the petition should not be granted, the court will approve the adoption agreement and order the adoption. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 578-8(a).

ANALYSIS

A. The Claimant Is the NH’s Child

The agency applies the adoption laws of the State where the adoption took place—in this case, Hawaii—when considering whether a child has been legally adopted. 20 C.F.R. § 404.356. Here, NH and his spouse (Claimant’s mother) petitioned the Family Court of the Fifth Circuit of the State of Hawaii in L~, Hawaii, to approve their adult adoption of Claimant. The Court’s Findings and Decisions state that both Claimant and her mother provided consent. The adoption decree listed the required provisions of Hawaii law and explained the petitioner was Claimant’s stepfather and was married to Claimant’s parent. Accordingly, the Court ordered the adoption and decreed that NH and his spouse were the legal parents of Claimant.2 The adoption was therefore valid under Hawaii law. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 578-1.5. Claimant is therefore the NH’s legally adopted child. See Social Security Act § 216(e)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.356.

Claimant is also NH’s stepchild because after her birth, her mother married the NH and Claimant was his stepchild for well over a year before she applied for benefits. See Social Security Act § 216(e)(2); 20 C.F.R. § 404.357.

Accordingly, Claimant is the NH’s child under section 216 of the Act as required to be entitled to child’s benefits. Social Security Act §§ 202(d)(1), 216(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(1).

B. The Claimant Meets the Other Criteria for Child’s Insurance Benefits

The Claimant similarly meets the other criteria to be entitled to child’s benefits on the NH’s account. Claimant has applied for benefits and is unmarried. See Social Security Act § 202(d)(1)(A) & (B); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(3) & (4). Additionally, although Claimant was 31 years of age when she filed her application for benefits, agency records show that she alleged a disability that began before age 22. Accordingly, her age did not preclude her eligibility for child’s insurance benefits. See Social Security Act § 202(d)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5) (an applicant who 18 years old or older and has a disability that began before she turned 22 years old may be eligible for child’s benefits).

Finally, the Claimant also can show she was dependent on the NH at the time she applied for benefits. See Social Security Act § 202(d)(1)(C); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(2). Claimant was NH’s legally adopted child as well as his stepchild, and is therefore deemed dependent on him. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.362(b)(2). Claimant is also considered dependent on the NH as his stepchild because she was receiving at least half her support from him: she does not work and lives with her mother and the NH. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.363(a). Claimant therefore meets the dependency requirement. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.362(b)(2) & 404.363; POMS GN 00306.136.A.

CONCLUSION

The Claimant is considered the NH’s child under the Social Security Act because her adult adoption was valid under Hawaii law and she is the NH’s stepchild. Claimant was also unmarried, her disability arose before age 22, and she is deemed dependent on the NH. Claimant is therefore entitled to child’s insurance benefits on the NH’s record, assuming the agency finds her disabled.


Footnotes:

[1]

. This opinion does not consider whether Claimant is disabled, only whether she is eligible for benefits on the NH’s account.

[2]

. Social Security Ruling (SSR) 83-37c, which cites Gray v. Richardson, 474 F.2d 1370 (6th Cir. 1973), holds that the agency should accept a state court adjudication if: (1) a state court of competent jurisdiction previously determined an issue arising in a claim for Social Security benefits; (2) the issue was genuinely contested by parties with opposing interests; (3) the issue falls within domestic relations law; and (4) the resolution is consistent with the law of the highest court of the state. In this matter, the L~ Family Court approved NH’s adoption of Claimant, the court’s adjudication was consistent with Hawaii state law, and the order involved a matter of domestic relations. However, the adoption was not a matter genuinely contested by parties with opposing interests. Since only three of the four prongs of SSR 83-37c are met, the agency is not bound by the court’s adoption order. Nevertheless, as the Court’s adjudication was consistent with Hawaii law, and there are no facts suggesting that the adoption was void or voidable under Hawaii law, the agency should accept the Court’s adoption order as valid.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1501310014
PR 01310.014 - Hawaii - 11/28/2016
Batch run: 11/28/2016
Rev:11/28/2016