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. 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. 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 adoptin