You inquired whether the adoption of Gary L. B~, a disabled adult, by wage earner
Larry E. G~ and his wife Lois G~ is valid under Wisconsin law. We conclude that the
adoption is valid under Wisconsin law and that Mr. B~ meets the definition of legally
adopted child for child's insurance benefits purposes.
Mr. G~ is currently receiving Retirement Insurance Benefits (RIB). His RIB date of
entitlement is November 1998. He and his wife were the foster parents of Gary L. B~,
a disabled adult who is currently receiving SSI benefits. On July 3, 2000, the Circuit
Court of Columbia County, Wisconsin entered an Order of Adoption, granting Mr. and
Mrs. G~' petition to adopt Mr. B~. The order states that it is an adult adoption and
that “[a]ll legal requirements have been met.” On July 27, 2001, the same court issued Letters of Guardianship. The Letters of Guardianship
state that Mr. B~ is an incompetent and appoint Mr. and Mrs. G~ as his legal guardians.
Mrs. G~ has filed an application, on Mr. B~'s behalf, for disabled child's insurance
benefits on Mr. G~' account.
Mr. B~ is entitled to Title II child's benefits on Mr. G~' account if (1) he is Mr.
G~' child; (2) he is dependent on Mr. G~; (3) he files an application, or one is filed
on his behalf; (4) he is unmarried; and (5) as a person over the age of eighteen,
he was under a disability that began prior to age twenty-two. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350. A “child” includes an individual's legally adopted child. 42 U.S.C. § 416(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.356.
In determining whether a child is the wage earner's legally adopted child, we apply
the adoption laws of the State where the adoption took place. 20 C.F.R. § 404.356.
An adoption is legal if it complies with the adoption laws of the State where the
adoption took place and at least one party to the adoption was domiciled or residing
in that State at the time of the adoption. POMS GN 00306.135.
Under Wisconsin law, an adult may be adopted by any other adult who is a Wisconsin
resident. Wisconsin Statutes Annotated (WSA) § 882.01. The adult to be adopted and
the petitioner's spouse, if (s)he has not joined in the petition for adoption, must
file a written consent to the adoption. WSA § 882.02. The adoption petition must be
filed in the county where the petitioner resides. WSA § 882.03. The circuit court
in that county must hold a hearing, at which the petitioner and the prospective adoptee
must be present. WSA §§ 882.03-882.04. The court also conducts an investigation to
the extent it considers advisable. WSA § 882.04. Upon a finding that it is in the
best interests of the persons involved, the court may grant an order of adoption.
WSA § 882.04. The order of adoption has the same legal consequences as an order of
adoption for a minor, i.e., the petitioner and adoptee have the same relationship,
and the same rights and duties, as those of a natural parent and child. WSA § 882.04.
The Order for Adoption in this case appears to be a standard form, on which the Court
checks the boxes next to the applicable statements. In this case, there is an “x” in the box next to the statement, “This is an adult adoption. All legal requirements have been met. The petitioner's
name is Larry F. G~ and Lois A. G~.” The form is signed by a circuit court judge. The Order for Adoption does not enumerate
findings as to each of the statutory requirements for an adult adoption. We conclude,
however, that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Court's statement that
all of the legal requirements have been met is sufficient to establish that Mr. B~'s
adoption is legal under Wisconsin law. Therefore, we conclude that Mr. B~ meets the
definition of “child” for child's insurance benefits purposes. See 42 U.S.C. § 416(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.356.
In summary, we conclude that Mr. B~'s adoption by Mr. G~ is legal under Wisconsin
law and, therefore, Mr. B~ meets the definition of “child” for purposes of entitlement to child's insurance benefits under the Social Security
Thomas W. C~
Regional Chief Counsel
Nancy L. B~
Assistant Regional Counsel