This is in response to your request for an opinion as to the validity of the Number
Holder's adoption of Lonnie L. R~ under Virginia law, and whether a parent-child relationship
Based on our review of the facts of this case and our research of the relevant statutes,
regulations, and case law, we have concluded that Lonnie's adoption is valid under
state law, and that it resulted in a parent-child relationship between the Number
Holder and Lonnie.
The following is a summary of the relevant facts in this matter. Lonnie is a disabled
thirty-seven year old adult who has lived with the Number Holder since 2001. The Number
Holder is currently receiving retirement benefits. By Final Order for Adoption issued
October 28, 2003, the Circuit Court for Fairfax County, VA granted the adoption of
Lonnie L. R~ by the Number Holder.
On June 28, 2005, the Number Holder filed an application for Retirement benefits and
listed Lonnie as his dependent. On September 8, 2006, Lonnie filed an application
for childhood disability benefits on the Number Holder's record. The current request
for a legal opinion arises out of Lonnie's September 2006 application for disabled
child's benefits on the Number Holder's account. The issues are whether Lonnie's adoption
as an adult is valid under Virginia Law, and whether a parent-child relationship exists.
Disabled adult child's benefits may be granted based on the earnings record of an
insured who is entitled to old-age benefits if the applicant is (1) the insured's
child, (2) dependent on the insured, (3) eighteen years old or older, and (4) has
a disability that began before he reached age twenty-two. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1); 20
C.F.R. § 404.350(a) (2005). Under the Act and the implementing regulations, a "child"
includes a legally adopted child. 42 U.S.C. § 416(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.356 (2005).
To determine the legality of an adoption, the Agency looks to the law of the state
where the adoption took place. 20 C.F.R. § 404.356 (2005). Lonnie was adopted in Virginia.
Accordingly, Virginia law applies.
Based on our research, we have concluded that Lonnie is the insured's legally adopted
child. Under Virginia law, any natural person who is a resident of the Commonwealth
of Virginia may petition the court for permission to adopt a person over eighteen
years old, provided that the person to be adopted is at least fifteen years younger
than the petitioner and the petitioner and the person to be adopted have known each
other for at least one year prior to the filing of the petition for adoption. Va.
Code § 63.2-1243. The consent of the person to be adopted is required. Id. In this case, the Court noted in its Final Order that Lonnie and the Number Holder
knew each other for more than five years and lived together for two years. In addition,
the Number Holder is more than fifteen years older than Lonnie. Finally, the Court
noted, Lonnie consented to the adoption. Thus, Judge Leslie A~ of the Circuit Court
of Fairfax County, Virginia declared Lonnie adopted by the Number Holder. Accordingly,
Lonnie's adoption satisfies the requirements of Virginia law, and confers upon him
child status under the Commissioner's regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(1), 404.356
In addition to demonstrating that he is the Number Holder's child, Lonnie must also
demonstrate that he is dependent on the Number Holder and that his disability began
before he reached aged twenty-two. 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a) (2005). A legally adopted
child is presumed dependent on the insured if he was adopted before the insured became
eligible for old-age benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.362 (a) (2005). If the adoption occurred
after the insured became entitled to old-age benefits, and the claimant was over eighteen
years old at the time of the adoption, the claimant must demonstrate that he was living
with or receiving at least one-half of his support from the insured for the year immediately
preceding the month in which the adoption occurred. 20C.F.R.§ 404.362(b) (2005).
According to the information provided, the Number Holder was born on September 9,
1940. If this information is correct, Lonnie was adopted after the Number Holder became
entitled to old-age benefits. However, even if this information is incorrect, it appears
that Lonnie satisfies the dependency requirement. If Lonnie was adopted before the
Number Holder became eligible for old-age benefits, then he is presumed dependent.
If he was adopted after the Number Holder became eligible for old-age benefits, the
Final Order issued by Judge A~ states that Lonnie had been living with the Number
Holder for two years, during which time the Number Holder was his primary source of
The final requirement for obtaining disabled adult child's benefits is proof that
Lonnie's disability began before he turned twenty-two years old. 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5)
(2005). Based on the information you provided, it appears that Lonnie has been disabled
since August 1, 1990, when he was twenty-one years old. If this is correct, then Lonnie
has satisfied each of the requirements for obtaining disabled adult child's benefits
For the above reasons, we conclude that Lonnie's adoption is valid under Virginia
law and confers upon him child status. In addition, it appears that Lonnie is dependent
on the Number Holder, and that his disability began before he turned twenty-two years
old. Accordingly, he is entitled to disabled adult child's benefits on the Number
Donna L. C~
Regional Chief Counsel
Theresa A. C~
Assistant Regional Counsel