TN 37 (10-15)
PR 01310.027 Mississippi
A. PR 15-199 Recognition of Adult Adoption for Determining Entitlement to Child’s Insurance Benefits as a Disabled Adult Child – Mississippi
Date: September 24, 2015
Mississippi law provides that any person may be adopted. The law specifically provides that the word “child” is construed to refer to the person adopted, even if he or she is an adult. Based on the evidence provided, NH validly adopted the Claimant in accordance with Mississippi law. Mississippi would recognize NH’s adoption of Claimant. Thus, Claimant is NH’s child for determining Claimant’s eligibility for CIB as NH’s DAC.
We note that for Claimant to qualify for CIB on NH’s earning record, the Claimant also must meet the other criteria set forth in section 202(d) of the Act and the applicable regulations.
You asked whether the number holder’s adoption of the claimant, an adult, is valid under Mississippi law for determining the claimant’s entitlement to child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as the number holder’s Disabled Adult Child (DAC).
The number holder’s adoption of the claimant is valid under Mississippi law. Therefore, the claimant is the number holder’s child for determining the claimant’s eligibility for CIB as the number holder’s DAC. We express no opinion regarding whether the claimant meets the dependency or other requirements for entitlement to CIB.
According to the information provided, J~ (Claimant) was born in October 1983. His mother died in 2011 and his father never provided support to Claimant or participated in Claimant’s life. On July XX, 2014, the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi, issued a Judgment on Adoption ordering that A~, the number holder (NH), was a fit and suitable person to adopt Claimant and that the adoption was in Claimant’s best interest. The Chancery Court ordered that Claimant is adopted by NH and for all legal intents and purposes is considered NH’s natural child. Claimant was 30 years old at the time of the adoption. NH is currently receiving Old Age Insurance Benefits.
A claimant may be entitled to CIB (whether as a DAC or category of “child”) if he is the “child” of an individual entitled to old-age insurance benefits. See Act § 202(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(1) (2015).* The Act defines “child” to include a legally adopted child. See Act § 216(e)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.354. The determination of whether a claimant is the legally adopted child of a wage earner is based on the adoption laws of the State where the putative adoption took place. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.356; Program Operations Manual (POMS) GN 00306.135(1). NH’s purported adoption of Claimant took place in Mississippi. Therefore, we look to Mississippi law to determine whether the adoption was valid.
Mississippi law provides that any person may be adopted. Miss. Code Ann. § 93-17-3(4) (West 2015). The law specifically provides that the word “child” is construed to refer to the person adopted, even if he or she is an adult. Id. Proper jurisdiction for an adoption is the chancery court of the county in which the adopting petitioner or petitioners reside or the child to be adopted resides or was born. Id. A petition must be accompanied by a doctor’s statement regarding the physical and mental state of the adoptee and a schedule of property owned by the adoptee. Id. Mississippi law also provides that no action shall be brought to set aside a final decree of adoption after six months have passed following the entry thereof. Miss. Code Ann. § 93-17-15 (West 2015). After the six-month period, no decree of adoption shall be set aside at all “except for jurisdictional defects and for failure to file and prosecute the same under the provisions of this chapter.” Miss. Code Ann. § 93-17-17 (West 2015).
Mississippi courts have indicated the doctor’s certificate is a jurisdictional prerequisite, and when the petition for adoption is not accompanied by such certificate, the petition is not properly before the court. See S.R. v. P.L.H., 748 So. 2d 853, 856-57 (Miss. Ct. App. 1999); Boone v. George Cty. Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, 459 So. 2d 254, 257 (Miss. 1984). The Mississippi Supreme Court clarified, however, that even if the court had previously referred to the requirements as “jurisdictional,” the requirements for a doctor certificate and a statement of the adoptee’s property were not the sort of requisite to an adoption proceeding which could be asserted two years after the fact in an attempt to set aside or revoke an adoption. In re Adoption of R.M.P.C., 512 So. 2d 702 (Miss. 1987). The court acknowledged a strong public policy for the finality of adoption decrees. Id. at 707 (citing Miss. Code Ann. § 93-17-17). The court deferred judgment on the question of whether the requirements for a doctor certificate and statement of adoptee’s property could justify revocation of an adoption within the first six months after the decree. Id.
Here, the adoption decree was issued by the chancery court from Hinds County. The Judgment of Adoption states that the petitioner, NH, was a resident citizen of Hinds County, Mississippi. Thus, NH met the residency requirement. The Judgment mentions the adoption petition and attached exhibits, but does not provide further detail about what those documents included. The Judgment does not mention any certification from a doctor or Claimant’s property ownership. It is possible those documents are included among the exhibits attached to the adoption petition, but it is not clear from the documents provided to us. Under Mississippi law, as a public official, the chancery court judge here is presumed to have performed his duties lawfully and correctly. See Aarco Oil & Gas Co. v. EOG Resources, Inc., 20 So. 3d 662, 668 (Miss. 2009). Regardless of whether those two documents were included with the petition, the chancery court issued the Judgment on Adoption on July 10, 2014. Over a year has passed. The Mississippi courts have held that at least after six months, an adoption decree that was issued without these two requirements does not have a jurisdictional defect. In re Adoption of R.M.P.C., 512 So. 2d at 707-08. Thus, even though it is not clear here whether NH filed the requisite paperwork with the court, the presumption is that the judge performed his duties according to the law and the chancery court still issued the adoption judgment and there are no jurisdictional defects. Therefore, Mississippi would recognize NH’s adoption of Claimant. We note that for Claimant to qualify for CIB on NH’s earning record, Claimant also must meet the other criteria set forth in section 202(d) of the Act and the applicable regulations. See Act § 202(d)(1)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a), 404.360, 404.362.
Based on the evidence provided, NH validly adopted Claimant in accordance with Mississippi law. Thus, Claimant is NH’s child for determining Claimant’s eligibility for CIB as NH’s DAC
Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel
Kristin M. Rogers
Assistant Regional Counsel
. * All subsequent citations to 20 C.F.R. are to the 2015 version.