This is in response to your request for our opinion.
Is Buck B~ the legally adopted child of the wage earner and Mrs. B~ for purposes of
the child's entitlement to surviving child's insurance benefits?
On August 7, 1986 while residing in the Philippines, the wage earner and his wife
petitioned the Regional Trial Court, Third Judicial Region, Angeles City, Philippines
to adopt the claimant. The claimant is the illegitimate child of the niece of the
wage earner's wife.
The claimant's natural mother, a minor at the time, and the claimant's maternal grandmother
both consented to the adoption in writing. The identity of the claimant's natural
father is unknown. There is no evidence that the written consent to the adoption of
this father was obtained.
The wage earner had five natural children from a previous marriage. Three of the children
consented in writing to the adoption. The wage earner had lost contact with his other
two children and no consent was obtained from them. The wage earner's wife had a child
out of wedlock by another man. There is no evidence that written consent to the adoption
of this child was obtained.
An adoption decree was issued by the Philippines court on November 28, 1986. A birth
certificate was subsequently issued showing the wage earner and his wife as the child's
parents. The family moved to the United States on March 13, 1987. The wage earner
died March l, 1988. At the time of his death, he and his wife and the claimant resided
Under the Social Security Act the minor child of a currently insured individual is
entitled to Social Security benefits, if the child was dependent upon the individual
at the time of such individual's death and if the child meets the definition of "child"
under the Act. Title II of the Social Security Act § 202(d)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1).
The Act defines a child as "the child or legally adopted child of an individual."
42 U.S.C. § 416(e)(1).
In determining whether an applicant is the child or parent of a fully or currently
insured individual for purposes of this title, the Secretary shall apply such law
as would be applied in determining the devolution of intestate personal property ...,
if such insured individual is dead, by the courts of the State in which he was domiciled
at the time of his death, .... Applicants who according to such law would have the
same status relative to taking in estate personal property as a child or parent shall
be deemed such.
42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(2)(A).
Under the law of Michigan an "adopted person is an heir of the adopting parents ....
" MICH. COMP. LAWS §700.110 (1987-1988). Michigan recognizes an adoption of an alien
child completed according to the law of the foreign country by the court of the country
of the child's nationality. MICH. ATT'Y GEN. lg55-56, No. 1842 at 341 as reported
in MICH. COMP. LAWS § 710.1 note 17 (1968). It therefore becomes necessary to determine
the validity of claimant's adoption under Philippine Law.
We referred the question of the validity of claimant's adoption in the Philippines
to the Library of Congress. The communications with the Library of Congress, including
the Library's response, are attached hereto.
Generally under Philippine law the written consent of both natural parents is required
for a child to be adopted. However, in the case of an illegitimate and unrecognized
child, the consent of the father who abandons the child is not necessary.
Philippine law also requires the written consent to the adoption of natural children
of the adopting parents fourteen years of age and older.
Although the written consent of the wage earner's children was necessary and such
consent was not obtained from two of his five children, the Library of Congress concluded
that Philippine law would excuse such consent where the children had "abandoned" their
The consent of the mother's illegitimate child would not be necessary if the child's
parents had been disqualified from marrying one another at the time of the child's
birth by an impediment. The claims folder does not contain enough information to determine
whether this is true.
Regardless, however, of whether all of the legal requirements for adoption in the
Philippines were met, the adoption decree is considered valid under Philippine law,
unless and until it is invalidated by the appropriate court in the Philippines. Since
we have no information that it has been invalidated, the adoption is valid under Philippine
Claimant, being validly adopted under Philippine law, is considered the child of the
wage earner for purposes of intestate succession in Michigan. He is therefore the
child of the wage earner under Title II of the Social Security Act.