TN 5 (11-07)

PR 02720.005 Arkansas

A. PR 07-192 Arkansas State Law on Acceptable Evidence in Support of a Legal Name Change (NH Terry W~ M~) - REPLY

DATE: August 10, 2007

1. SYLLABUS

The State of Arkansas accepts a Texas court order, in which the court finds that two parties entered into a common law marriage in Texas, as acceptable evidence to support a legal name change due to marriage.

2. OPINION

This memorandum is to provide an opinion regarding the evidence needed in the State of Arkansas to support a legal name change due to marriage. Specifically, you asked whether the State of Arkansas would accept a Texas court order, in which the court finds that two parties entered into a common law marriage in Texas, as acceptable evidence to support a legal name change due to marriage. In our opinion, the State of Arkansas would accept the Texas court order as evidence of a legal name change due to marriage.

To support a legal name change on the Social Security card and Numident record, the number holder must provide the Social Security Administration (Agency) a document supporting the name change, if the name change event occurred over two years prior to the date the number holder requested the Agency to change his/her name or the name change document does not show either a photograph of the person or biographical information that the Agency can compare with the number holder's Numident record. In addition, the number holder must provide the Agency at least one document showing the number holder's old name (the name on the latest Social Security card and Numident record) and another document showing the number holder's new name (the name to be shown on the corrected Social Security card and Numident record).

As we understand the facts, Terry W. M~, the number holder, is an Arkansas resident. The number holder's maiden name is Terry A. K~. In 1974, the number holder married Thomas W~. As a result, she changed her legal name and the name on her Social Security card and Numident record to Terry W~. In 1977, she divorced Thomas W~. In 1981, the number holder married David R~, and she changed her legal name to Terry A. R~. In 1995, the number holder divorced David R~, and she obtained a court order that granted her a legal name change from Terry A. R~ to Terry A. K~ in 1996. The number holder did not request that the Agency change her name on her Social Security card and Numident record as a result of her marriage to David R~ or the 1996 court order changing her legal name from Terry A. R~ to Terry A. K~. After she divorced David R~, the number holder entered into a common law marriage, in Texas, with Waldon C. M~. Mr. M~ died on October 16, 2001, while living in Texas. On November 7, 2001, a Texas court issued an order finding that Terry K. M~ was the common law wife of Waldon C. M~. On October 16, 2004, the number holder obtained an Arkansas driver's license, which names Terry K. M~ as the licensee. On November 20, 2006, the number holder went to an Arkansas Social Security Administration field office and filed an Application for a Social Security Card, Form SS-5, requesting a name change on her Social Security card and Numident record. In her application, the number holder stated that the name on her most recent Social Security card is Terry W~, and she requested that the Agency change the name on her Social Security card and Numident record from Terry W~ to Terry A. M~. To support her name change request, the number holder submitted the following records:

1. An Arkansas decree, filed on April 24, 1978, in which the court granted a divorce between Terry W~ and Thomas W~;

2. An Arkansas marriage license and certificate of marriage that shows Terry A. W~ married David A. R~ in January 1981;

3. An Arkansas decree, filed on May 16, 1995, in which the court granted a divorce between David A. R~ and Terry A. R~;

4. A court order, dated November 12, 1996, from the District Court of Cass County, Texas, Fifth Judicial District, in which the court granted the number holder a name change from Terry A. R~ to Terry A. K~;

5. A Cass County, Texas court order granting letters of administration, in which the court found that Terry K~ M~ was the common law wife of Waldon C. M~;

6. A letter of administration appointing Terry K~ M~ as the administratrix of the estate of Waldon C. M~;

7. A letter from Mary A. S~, Director of Medical Information Department at Conway Regional Health System, dated November 24, 2006, which states that according to extract data from their medical records, Terry A. W~ was born on November 17, 1956; and

8. An Arkansas driver's license issued to Terry K~ M~ on November 16, 2004.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act requires the Agency to "establish minimum standards for verification of documents or records submitted by an individual to establish eligibility for an original or replacement [S]ocial [S]ecurity card." Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-458, § 7213(a)(1)(B). The Agency requires a legal document to change an applicant's name on the Social Security record. See POMS RM 00203.210A.2. "For a U.S. resident, a legal name change based on a U.S. marriage depends on the laws of the State where the marriage occurred." POMS RM 00203.210B.1. In all 50 States in the U.S., a wife may take her husband's last name as her new last name. See POMS RM 00203.210B.1.b.

Arkansas accepts a marriage license, a court order, or a divorce decree indicating a change of name, as evidence that a legal name change has occurred. See Ark. Code Ann. § 27-16-506(b) (2007) (document needed in order to change the name on a driver's license). Common law marriages may not be created by law in Arkansas. Craig v. Carrigo, 121 S.W.3d 154, 160 (Ark. 2003). However, Arkansas courts will recognize marriages contracted by law in other states. Id. A person seeking to prove the creation of a common law marriage in another state must do so in a legal proceeding. Id.

Here, the number holder submitted to the Agency a Texas court order as evidence that she entered into a common law marriage relationship with Waldon C. M~, while living in Texas. Texas recognizes two forms of marriage, ceremonial and informal. See Tex. Atty. Gen. Op. JC-0156, at 2 (1999). To prove an informal marriage, a man and a woman may either execute a declaration prescribed by the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics or utilize a legal proceeding. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 2.401 (Vernon 2007). In our opinion, the Texas court order is legal evidence that the number holder was the common law wife of Mr. M~ because it proves the existence of a common law marriage through a legal proceeding, as required under Texas and Arkansas law. Consequently, to prove a legal name change due to marriage, the State of Arkansas would accept the Texas court order as evidence that the number holder entered into a common law marriage, in Texas, with Waldon C. M~.

The Agency requires a number holder to present documentary evidence to prove his or her identity when applying for a change of name on a Social Security card and Numident record. POMS RM 00203.200 and RM 00203.210A.1. If the name change event occurred over two years prior to the date the number holder requested the Agency to change his/her name or the name change document does not show either a photograph of the person or biographical information that the Agency can compare with the Numident record, the number holder must submit two identity documents classified as either primary or secondary evidence, in addition to the document ordering the name change. Id. RM 00203.210A.1. "One of the submitted identity documents must show the number holder's old name (the name on the latest Numident record) and the other submitted identity document must show the number holder's new name (the name to be shown on the corrected SSN card)." Id. The submitted identity documents must show either the number holder's photograph or biographical information that can be compared with the number holder's Numident record. Id. If a number holder submits a document that is not listed as either primary or secondary evidence of identity for a Social Security card, the document may still be acceptable with supervisory approval and Regional Office concurrence. Id. RM 00203.200B.3.

In September 2006, over two years after she changed her legal name from Terry W~ to Terry A. M~, the number holder went to an Arkansas Social Security Administration field office to request a name change on her Social Security card and Numident record. As noted above, the number holder submitted a Texas court order, dated November 7, 2001, which legally established her common law marriage to Waldon C. M~ and showed her name as Terry A. M~. Consistent with the Agency policy, the number holder submitted evidence of her old name on the latest Numident record. She submitted a letter from Mary A. S~, Director of Medical Information Department at Conway Regional Health System, which states that according to extract data from their medical treatment records, Terry A. W~ was born on November 17, 1956. The Agency classifies a letter providing extract data from a medical record, showing the applicant's name and date of birth, as acceptable secondary evidence of identity for a Social Security card. See POMS RM 00203.200E.6.1. The number holder also submitted an Arkansas driver's license as an identity document of the new name to be shown on the corrected Social Security card and Numident record. The Agency classifies a U.S. driver's license as acceptable primary evidence of identity for a Social Security card. See id.

In conclusion, the number holder presented evidence supporting a name change due to marriage under Arkansas law. The number holder also submitted all the evidence the Agency requires to change the name on a number holder's Social Security card and Numident record.

Consequently, the Agency may approve the application and may change the number holder's name on her Social Security card and Numident record from Terry W~ to Terry A. M~.

Tina M. W~
Regional Chief Counsel
By__________
Ruben M~
Assistant Regional Counsel


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1502720005
PR 02720.005 - Arkansas - 04/22/2009
Batch run: 02/02/2011
Rev:04/22/2009