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
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.
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 conferred by law on another court, tribunal, or administrative body. See Tex. Const., art. V, § 8; Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 24.008; Women's Community Health Center of Beaumont, Inc. v. Texas Health Facilities Com'n, 685 F.2d 974, 981 (5th Cir. 1982). Texas law does not confer a court, tribunal, or administrative body, other than district courts, with jurisdiction to validate foreign judgments. Consistent with Texas law, we conclude that the Texas District Court had jurisdiction to validate the Mexican adoption decree.
You also requested an opinion regarding the adoption's effective date. In Texas, an adoption decree establishes, for all purposes, the parent-child relationship between the adoptive parent and child. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 162.017. But Texas statutes and case law are silent on the issue regarding the date an adoption becomes legally effective in Texas, when a foreign country grants the adoption and a Texas court subsequently validates the foreign adoption. As previously noted, Texas requires that a certified copy of a decree of adoption granted in a foreign country be submitted for validation to a Texas court. See 25 Tex. Admin. Code § 181.29. Texas courts have stated that "[v]alidate is a derivative of valid, and means to make valid; to confirm. . . . These definitions presuppose antecedent facts which, in themselves, though attempting validity, had been insufficient to accomplish it." City of Averman v. City of Fort Worth, 363 S.W.2d 500, 502 (Tex. App. - Fort Worth 1962, writ ref'd n.r.e.). Consistent with the Texas court's statement, a foreign adoption is not legally valid and enforceable in Texas until a Texas court validates the foreign adoption decree. In this case, the Texas District Court validated the Mexican adoption decree on September 16, 2005. Thus, we conclude that the adoption's effective date is September 16, 2005.
The Agency considers the children Mr. M~'s dependents, eligible for child's insurance benefits, only after a court within the United States grants the adoption because Mr. M~ adopted the children after he became entitled to Title II benefits. As a result, the children met the dependency requirements and the requirements to receive child's insurance benefits under Mr. M~'s account on September 16, 2005, the date the Texas District Court issued its judgment.
Tina M. W~
Regional Chief Counsel
Assistant Regional Counsel