TN 21 (05-13)

PR 01310.045 South Carolina

A. PR 13-062 Sufficiency of South Carolina Adoption Decree for Number Holder—Brenda Claimant—Jennie

DATE: April 10, 2013

1. SYLLABUS

The number holder (NH) and a current recipient of old-age benefits, applied on Claimant’s behalf for DAC benefits on her earnings record. NH stated she adopted Claimant from India around December 1992, when she lived in South Carolina (NH and Claimant currently reside in North Carolina). NH and Claimant stated they cannot locate the foreign adoption paperwork.

Under South Carolina law the following evidence may be used to establish the validity of child adoption.

  1. 1. 

    The NH submitted an Amended Adoption Decree from a South Carolina court, dated March 8, 1993. The State court granted NH’s petition to adopt Claimant.

  1. 2. 

    NH also submitted a certificate of citizenship, dated October 18, 2000, from the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization and stating Claimant was a citizen of the United States.

Based on the evidence provided, NH validly adopted Claimant in accordance with South Carolina law. Thus, Claimant is NH’s child for determining Claimant’s eligibility for DAC benefits on NH’s earnings record

2. OPINION

QUESTION

You asked whether a South Carolina adoption decree is sufficient evidence to establish a child-parent relationship in lieu of a foreign adoption decree for determining the claimant’s eligibility for disabled adult child’s (DAC) benefits on the number holder’s earning record.

OPINION

The South Carolina adoption decree establishes a child-parent relationship because it was valid under South Carolina law. Therefore, the claimant is the number holder’s child for determining the claimant’s eligibility for DAC benefits on the number holder’s earning record.

BACKGROUND

According to the information provided, Brenda, the number holder (NH) and a current recipient of old-age benefits, applied on Jennie’s (Claimant) behalf for DAC benefits on her earnings record. NH stated she adopted Claimant from India around December 1992, when she lived in South Carolina (NH and Claimant currently reside in North Carolina). NH and Claimant stated they cannot locate the foreign adoption paperwork, but NH submitted an Amended Adoption Decree from a South Carolina court, dated March 8, 1993. The State court granted NH’s petition to adopt Claimant. NH also submitted a certificate of citizenship, dated October 18, 2000, from the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization and stating Claimant was a citizen of the United States.

DISCUSSION

To qualify for DAC benefits on the earnings record of an insured individual who is entitled to old-age benefits, a claimant must be the insured individual’s “child.” See Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(1) (2012). [1] “Child” includes a legally adopted child. Act § 216(e)(1); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.354, 404.356. SSA applies the adoption laws of the State or foreign country where the adoption occurred to determine if the claimant is the insured’s legally adopted child. 20 C.F.R. § 404.356; Program Operations Manual (POMS) GN 00306.135(1). At least one party to the adoption, either the child or the adopting parent, must have been domiciled or actually residing in that jurisdiction at the time of the adoption. POMS GN 00306.135(1).

A South Carolina court issued the decree granting NH’s petition to adopt Claimant. Therefore, we look to South Carolina law to determine the validity of the adoption. “After the final decree of adoption is entered, the relationship of parent and child and all the rights, duties, and other legal consequences of the natural relationship of parent and child exist between the adoptee, the adoptive parent, and the kindred of the adoptive parent.” S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-1770(A) (West 1991). Based on our review of the adoption decree and the relevant provisions of the South Carolina Adoption Act when the court issued its decree in 1993, see S.C. Code Ann. §§ 20-7-1646 to -1810 (West 1992) , we have found no basis for concluding the court did not comply with South Carolina law in issuing its decree. Thus, NH’s adoption of Claimant is valid under South Carolina law, and Claimant is NH’s legally adopted child for determining Claimant’s eligibility for DAC benefits on NH’s earnings record. See POMS PR 01310.012(A) (finding no basis for questioning Georgia adoption decree, therefore concluding legal adoption was valid under Georgia law), 01310.016(A) (finding adoption was valid based on “Judgment of Adoption” issued by Illinois court), 01310.036(A)(2) (concluding claimant was adopted child based on “final order of adoption” issued by North Carolina court); cf. POMS GN 00306.155(B)(1) (allowing SSA to establish date of adoption based on adoption decree voluntarily submitted by adopting parent).

Although NH stated she adopted Claimant from India in December 1992 and submitted a copy of Claimant’s Certificate of Citizenship from 2000, she did not submit the original foreign adoption papers necessary to establish the validity of a foreign adoption. See POMS GN 00306.155(E). Moreover, the South Carolina court did not mention a finalized foreign adoption in its adoption decree. Rather, the court referenced an Indian court order granting “guardianship (custody) and permission to leave India,” suggesting NH had not finalized an adoption of Claimant under Indian law. [2] In addition, the decree states NH obtained physical custody of Claimant in November 1991 and Claimant had been in her custody since then. The decree also references several “Post-Placement” reports from January, March, and May 1992. Furthermore, the decree indicates neither Claimant nor NH resided in India at the time of the purported December 1992 adoption. Therefore, the information provided does not demonstrate that NH adopted Claimant in accordance with Indian law. Nevertheless, because NH validly adopted Claimant under South Carolina law as discussed above, Claimant is NH’s legally adopted child.

CONCLUSION

Based on the evidence provided, NH validly adopted Claimant in accordance with South Carolina law. Thus, Claimant is NH’s child for determining Claimant’s eligibility for DAC benefits on NH’s earnings record.

Sincerely,

Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel

By: _________
Kevin M. Parrington
Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

All references to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2012 version.

[2]

NH states South Carolina “required her to adopt [Claimant] through their court system once the foreign adoption was finalized.” This statement appears mistaken. Although South Carolina law currently requires domestication of foreign adoptions, see S.C. Code Ann. § 63-9-910(A) (West 2012), it apparently did not require domestication in 1992. See S.C. Code Ann. §§ 20-7-1646 to -1810 (West 1992). This requirement began in 1997. 1997 S.C. Acts 69 (amending the South Carolina Code of Laws by adding provision requiring domestication of foreign adoptions).


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1501310045
PR 01310.045 - South Carolina - 05/10/2013
Batch run: 03/06/2017
Rev:05/10/2013