BASIC (06-06)

PR 01315.048 Texas

A. PR 06-150 Texas State Law Recognition of a Foreign Adoption to Establish Parent-Child Relationship (NH Alberto M~, SSN ~) - REPLY

DATE: May 31, 2006

1. SYLLABUS

In a case where the number holder resides in Texas, the Texas District Court has the right to issue an order validating an Mexican adoption which took place after the number holder's entitlement. The adoption becomes legally effective in Texas on September 16, 2005, the date the Texas District Court issued its judgment granting the adoption.

2. OPINION

You have requested an opinion regarding whether the 65th Judicial District Court (Texas District Court), located in El Paso County, Texas, had jurisdiction to issue an order validating a Mexican adoption. You have also requested an opinion regarding the adoption's effective date, if we find that the Texas District Court had jurisdiction to validate the Mexican adoption. In our opinion, the Texas District Court had jurisdiction to validate the Mexican adoption, and the adoption became legally effective in Texas on September 16, 2005, the date the Texas District Court issued its judgment granting the adoption.

As we understand the facts, Alberto M~ (Mr. M~), the insured, is a Texas resident. Mr. M~ began receiving Social Security Title II benefits in March 1981. In 1987, Mr. M~ married Bertha L~ (Mrs. M~). In 1999, Mr. and Mrs. M~ began proceedings in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, to adopt twin children, Karina E. M~-L~ and Edgar A. M~-L~ (children), who were born in Mexico on June 15, 1995. In January 2000, a Mexican court issued a decree granting Mr. and Mrs. M~ the children's adoption.

In July 2004, Mrs. M~ filed with the Social Security Administration (Agency), on the children's behalf, applications for child's insurance benefits on Mr. M~'s account. In support of the applications, Mrs. M~ submitted the Mexican adoption decree to establish the parent-child relationship between Mr. M~ and the children. The Agency denied the claims because a United States court did not issue the adoption decree. On September 16, 2005, after Mr. and Mrs. M~ filed a petition to enforce the Mexican adoption decree, the Texas District Court issued an "Order on Petition to Enforce Foreign Judgment" (Texas Court Order), ordering that the Mexican adoption decree be given the same effect as a Texas District Court's judgment. In September 2005, Mrs. M~ filed, on the children's behalf, subsequent applications for child's insurance benefits on Mr. M~'s account. In support of the applications, Mrs. M~ submitted the Texas Court Order to establish the parent-child relationship between Mr. M~ and the children.

Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act), and the applicable regulations, contain the criteria for entitlement to child's insurance benefits. A child may receive child's insurance benefits on the account of an aged or disabled insured if the child is the child of the insured, as defined in section 216(e) of the Act. See Social Security Act § 202(d)(1), 42 U.S.C. ' 402(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. ' 404.350 (2005). The Act defines the term "child" as the child or adopted child of an individual. See Social Security Act § 216(e)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 416(e)(1). Legal adoption is one method of establishing a relationship to the insured. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.354. A child adopted after an insured becomes entitled to Title II benefits is not considered the insured's dependent and is not entitled to child's insurance benefits unless the child's adoption was granted by a court of competent jurisdiction within the United States. See Social Security Act §§ 202(d)(8)(A)-(B), 42 U.S.C. §§ 402(d)(8)(A)-(B), (D)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.362(b)(i). In this case, Mr. M~ adopted the children after he became entitled to Title II benefits. Thus, we must determine whether the Texas District Court is a court of competent jurisdiction to grant the adoption.

Texas courts shall accord full faith and credit to an adoption decree rendered to a Texas resident by a foreign country, "unless the adoption law or process of the foreign country violates the fundamental principles of human rights or the laws or public policy of [Texas]." See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 162.023(a) (2005). Before according full faith and credit to a foreign adoption decree, Texas law requires that a court of competent jurisdiction validate a certified copy of the decree, presumptively to ascertain that the foreign country's adoption law or process does not violate Texas' human rights or public policy. See 25 Tex. Admin. Code § 181.29 (2005).

The Texas Constitution provides Texas district courts their jurisdiction. See Tex. Const. art. V, § 8; Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 24.007 (2005). Texas district courts have exclusive, appellate, and original jurisdiction of all actions and remedies, except in cases where exclusive, appellate, or original jurisdiction may be conf