TN 1 (11-07)

PR 02720.048 Texas

A. PR 07-193 Texas State Law on Acceptable Evidence of Legal Name Change for a Texas Common Law Marriage – NH Teri W~ B~; SSN ~ – REPLY

DATE: August 9, 2007

1. SYLLABUS

A notarized declaration of informal marriage by itself or in combination with affidavits of heirship does not create an informal marriage or constitute a legal name change document since it is not in compliance with the Texas Family’s Code requirements for a registerable declaration of informal marriage.

2. OPINION

You requested a legal opinion regarding whether a notarized declaration of an informal marriage presented by a Texas resident is a legal name change document for purposes of Texas state law, either by itself or in combination with affidavits of heirship. For the reasons set forth herein, we conclude that a declaration of informal marriage that is not in compliance with the Texas Family Code’s requirements for a registerable declaration of informal marriage and does not specify a new name for the party in question does not create an informal marriage or constitute a legal name change document for purposes of Texas law, either by itself or in combination with affidavits of heirship that identify the party by a new name./

The documents you presented show that on July 24, 2002, Teri W~ (NH) executed a notarized Declaration stating that she entered into an informal marriage to Paul B~ on or about January 5, 2002, for the purpose of obtaining spousal benefits from the South Central United Food & Commercial Workers Unions and Employers Health & Welfare Trust. The NH identified herself and signed the Declaration as “Teri W~.” A third-party declaration made in support also identified the parties to the informal marriage as Mr. B~ and “Teri W~.” The Declaration does not address the issue of a name change by either Mr. B~ or the NH. We have no evidence indicating that either Mr. B~ or the NH attempted to formally register their purported informal marriage. Mr. B~ died on January 5, 2003. The death certificate identified “Teri W~” as the surviving spouse. On March 4, 2003, Sherri A~ and Michael A~ executed affidavits of heirship stating that Mr. B~ “was married to Teri B~ on 24 July 2002,” and identifying the NH as Mr. B~’ surviving spouse. The NH obtained a Texas driver’s license with an expiration date of August 18, 2006, identifying herself as “Teri W~ B~.” The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a temporary driving permit on February 2, 2007, to “Teri W~ B~.” On February 6, 2007, the NH filed an application for a replacement Social Security card with the surname “B~.”

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act requires the Social Security Administration (Agency) to “establish minimum standards for verification of documents or records submitted by an individual to establish eligibility for an original or replacement social security card.” See Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-458, § 7213(a)(1)(B). Pursuant to this directive, the Agency requires that “[a] legal document showing a name change or the basis of the name change (divorce, marriage, naturalization) must be submitted when the applicant requests an SSN card in a new name.” See Social Security Administration Program Operations Manual System (POMS) Records Maintenance (RM) 00203.210A.2./ There are five types of acceptable legal documents: (1) a marriage document or marriage record, (2) a divorce decree specifically stating that the applicant may change his/her name, (3) a Certificate of Naturalization showing a new name; (4) a court order for a name change, or (5) an amended/corrected birth certificate. See POMS RM 00203.210B. Without a legal document showing a name change, the Agency’s records must continue to reflect the applicant’s legal name, i.e., the name on their birth certificate. See POMS RM 00203.210A.2.

The NH seeks a name change based on her purported informal marriage to Mr. B~./ As proof of her marriage and name change, the NH has presented her July 2002 Declaration and the March 2003 affidavits of heirship executed by Sherri and Michael A~. Thus, the NH’s evidence concerns only the first type of legal document identified in POMS RM 00203.210B, a marriage document or marriage record. “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. The NH alleges an informal marriage in the State of Texas. The July 2002 Declaration executed by the NH and Mr. B~ states that they entered into an informal marriage in Texas and continued to reside in the state after entering into the informal marriage. Accordingly, we apply the laws of the State of Texas to determine the requirements for a marriage document that effects a legal name change pursuant to marriage.

The NH’s July 2002 Declaration of informal marriage does not address the issue of a name change by either Mr. B~ or the NH. To the contrary, the Declaration indicates that the NH’s name did not change to B~ as a result of the informal marriage. As a result, the Declaration does not contain the necessary information to be a valid name change document because it does not specify a new name for the NH. See POMS RM 00203.210B.

In addition, the NH’s July 2002 Declaration is insufficient to establish the existence of an informal marriage under Texas law. Texas law recognizes both ceremonial and informal marriages. See Creel v. Martinez, 176 S.W.3d 516, 519 (Tex. App. 2004). To prove an informal marriage in Texas, a man and a woman may either execute a Declaration in the form set forth in the Texas Family Code or prove their informal marriage through a legal proceeding. Tex. Fam. Code §§ 2.401-2.402 (2007). The Declaration executed by the NH and Mr. B~ does not contain the necessary information or certifications to constitute proof of an informal marriage under Texas law. Specifically, the Declaration does not contain the requisite (1) heading entitled “Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage,                        County, Texas;” (2) identification of the Texas county in which the document was executed; (3) the NH’s full name; (4) either party’s address, date of birth, place of birth, or Social Security number; (5) identification of documents used as proof of age or identity for either party; (6) the necessary declaration and oath; or (7) certification by a county clerk of the declarations and oath. Tex. Fam. Code § 2.402(b). Because it lacks the necessary information, Texas law prohibits any county clerk from recording or certifying the Declaration executed by the NH and Mr. B~. See Texas Fam. Code § 2.404(b). Thus, the Declaration is not a legal document of the type required by POMS RM 00203.210B.

You also asked whether the affidavits of heirship presented by the NH support a name change. The March 2003 affidavits of heirship are not one of the five types of acceptable documents set forth in POMS RM 00203.210B, and therefore cannot establish a legal name change. The regulations require “convincing documentary evidence” in support of a name change. 20 C.F.R. § 422.110(a). The Agency has specified the types of documentary evidence required to establish a name change, precluding reliance on evidence outside the defined types.

In summary, none of the documents provided by the NH as proof of her name change pursuant to her purported marriage to Mr. B~ are sufficient proof of a legal name change. The NH’s July 2002 Declaration does not identify a new name for the NH, cannot serve to establish an informal marriage in the State of Texas, and is barred from being recorded or certified as such by Texas law. The March 2003 affidavits of heirship executed by Sherri and Michael A~ are not legal documents of the type acceptable to support a name change. Based on the evidence presented, the NH has not presented a satisfactory legal name change document in support of her request for a name change.

Tina M. W~
Regional Chief Counsel
By__________
Jose R. H~
Assistant Regional Counsel

B. 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

C. PR 07-124 Texas Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage as Support for Legal Name Change Due to Marriage (NH Maria D~ W~; SSN ~) - REPLY

DATE: April 30, 2007

1. SYLLABUS

The State of Texas accepts a Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage (Declaration) as support for a legal name change due to marriage provided that a Texas county clerk records the Declaration. The Declaration does not require the woman to state whether she will change her name due to marriage

2. OPINION

This memorandum is in response to your request for an opinion on whether the State of Texas would accept a Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage (Declaration) as support for a legal name change due to marriage. In our opinion, Texas would accept a Declaration as support for a legal name change due to marriage, provided that a Texas county clerk records the Declaration.

As we understand the facts, Maria D~, the number holder, is a Texas resident. On December 22, 2006, Maria D~ and Douglas W~ signed a Declaration in the State of Texas and filed it with the County Clerk, Harris County, Texas. The Declaration states that on or about August 13, 1998, Maria D~ and Douglas W~ agreed to be married to each other; and that thereafter they lived together and held themselves out to others as husband and wife in the State of Texas. The Declaration also states that Ms. D~ and Mr. W~ are not related to each other, and that they have not been married to any other person since August 13, 1998. Ms. D~ applied for a replacement Social Security card at the Galveston, Texas Social Security Administration field office, asking for a name change due to marriage. In her application, Ms. D~ requests that the last name on her Social Security card be changed from D~ to W~. To support her request for a name change due to marriage, Ms. D~ presented the Declaration which was recorded by the County Clerk, Harris County, Texas.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act requires the Social Security Administration (Agency) to “establish minimum standards for verification of documents or records submitted by an individual to establish eligibility for an original or replacement social security card.” See 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 Number record. See Social Security Administration Program Operations Manual System (POMS) Records Maintenance (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 U.S. States, a wife may take her husband's last name as her new last name. See POMS RM 00203.210B.1.b.

Texas recognizes marriage as a legal basis for changing a person's name. 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 (the parties) may either execute a Declaration prescribed by the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics or prove their informal marriage through a legal proceeding. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 2.401-2.402 (Vernon 2007). The Declaration does not require the woman to state whether she will change her name due to marriage. See id. §§ 2.401-2.402. But in the Declaration, the parties must certify that they agreed to be married to each other, providing the approximate date of marriage; that after they agreed to be married to each other, they lived together as husband and wife in the State of Texas; that they represented to others that they were married; that they have not been married to any other person since the date of marriage; and that they are not related to each other. See id. §§ 2.401-2.402. The parties must also list in the Declaration their full names, including the woman's maiden surname; their address, social security numbers, dates of birth, and places of birth; and they must list the document provided to the county clerk to verify their identities. See id. § 2.402 (b)(2). The parties must file the Declaration with a Texas county clerk. See id. § 2.404. After the Texas county clerk determines that the parties submitted all the necessary information and that they meet all the legal requirements to enter into an informal marriage, the Texas county clerk records the Declaration. See id. § 2.404(a)-(c). The recorded Declaration is prima facie evidence of the marriage of the parties. See id. § 2.404(d).

Here, Ms. D~ submitted to the Galveston, Texas Social Security Administration field office a Declaration that was recorded by the County Clerk, Harris County, Texas. In our opinion, the Declaration is legal evidence that Ms. D~ is married to Mr. W~ because it was recorded by a Texas county clerk, as required by law. The recording of the Declaration confirms that the parties met all the legal requirements to enter into an informal marriage in the State of Texas. Therefore, the Agency may accept Ms. D~'s Declaration as support for a name change due to marriage.

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/1502720048
PR 02720.048 - Texas - 03/31/2008
Batch run: 02/02/2011
Rev:03/31/2008