PR 01325.040 Belize
A. PR 01-173 Validity of the Adoption of a Child in Belize, SSN ~ Number Holder (NH) Odelia E. S~
DATE: May 24, 2001
To determine whether a child is a legally adopted child of the insured, SSA applies the adoption laws of the State or foreign country where the adoption took place. Under Belize law:
A certified copy of any entry in the Adopted Children Register if purporting to be sealed or stamped with the seal of the General Registry shall, without any further or other proof of such entry...where the entry contains a record of the date of the birth of the child shall be received not only as evidence of the adoption to which it relates, but also evidence of the date of birth of the adopted child....
This is in response to your request for an opinion as to whether adoptions in Belize are recognized for purposes of entitlement to social security benefit payments. At issue are applications for survivor benefits of Jaime E. H~ and James A. S~ based on the record of Odelia E. (H~) S~. We have concluded that Odelia legally adopted Jaime.
The facts as I understand them indicate that on December 17, 1997, Odelia adopted a child, Jaime, in Belize City, Belize. Jaime was born on November 23, 1993. Odelia died on July 5, 1999. Her husband, James, filed for social security survivor's benefits for Jaime on July 16, 1999. On that date, James also filed for benefits as a surviving spouse with a child in his care, i.e., father's benefits.
The documents in the file contain a copy of the Adoption Certificate for Jaime, which was issued on June 2, 1998. This certificate shows Odelia as the mother. The Certificate does not list James as the father, although a marriage certificate shows that he and Odelia were married on July 4, 1992.
In order to be entitled to survivor's benefits as the child of a number holder pursuant to section 202(d) of the Social Security Act (Act), a child must be a child as defined in section 216(e) of the Act. Section 216(e) defines "child" to include a child or legally adopted child of the insured.
In determining whether a child is the legally adopted child of the insured, SSA must apply the adoption laws of the State or foreign country where the adoption took place. 20 C.F.R. ' 404.356. As the adoption of Jamie took place in Belize, SSA must apply the laws of Belize. At the request of the Office of Program Law, the Law Library of Congress issued a report entitled "Adoption in Belize" (copy attached). This report concludes that the adoption certificate in the instant case is evidence of a valid adoption.
The report of the Law Library of the Library of Congress concerning Belize law was based on our understanding of the facts as presented to us, as evidenced by documents in the claim folder. The report states that the adoption certificate produced in this claim is in the form provided by section 13 of the Adoption of Children Act in accordance with Belize law, a portion of which states:
[A] certified copy of any entry in the Adopted Children Register if purporting to be sealed or stamped with the seal of the General Registry shall, without any further or other proof of such entry...where the entry contains a record of the date of the birth of the child shall be received not only as evidence of the adoption to which it relates, but also evidence of the date of birth of the adopted child....
Bel. Rev. Laws, ch 135 (1990).
The report explains that the validity of an adoption in Belize can be questioned notwithstanding the fact that it has been entered in the Adopted Child Register. However, the author of the report did not find any grounds for doubting the validity of this adoption. Thus, he found the adoption certificate stating that Jaime was adopted by Odelia to be evidence of a valid adoption.
Additionally, we requested the opinion of the Law Library of the Library of Congress as to whether James can be considered to be the adoptive father of Jaime (as he was not listed on the adoption certificate as her father). However, the report was inconclusive on this point. After discussions with Ron T~ and Taz C~ (both from your office), I determined that James need not be Jaime's adoptive father in order to be eligible for father's benefits on Odelia's earnings record under section 202(g) (1) of the Act. Therefore, I did not pursue this matter.