Graciela A. Z~ and Eduardo O. V~ were married in Cuba in July 1949. In support of
her claim for Social Security widow's benefits on Mr. V~ 's account, Ms. Z~ asserts
that she and Mr. V~ lived together until 1962 and that they were never legally divorced.
Mr. V~, however, married a second time in February 1963 in Tampa, Florida. Evidence
in the administrative record indicates that in 1966, in the context of child support
proceedings before a New York State family court, Ms. Z~ declared that she and Mr.
V~ were divorced in November 1958. In response to the child support petition, Mr.
V~ submitted “a translation of the final decree of divorce which occurred in Cuba
many years ago.” A copy of Ms. C~ civil registry record, which she obtained through
the Swiss embassy in 1962, does not reflect the divorce. You asked whether, as Ms.
Z~ contends, entry of the divorce in the civil registry was necessary in order to
end her marriage under Cuban law.
According to Cuban law in effect at the time of the putative divorce, registration
of the decree was not mandatory to validate a divorce. See Decree-Law No. 206 of May
10, 1934, article 1 et seq., Gaceta~ (G.O.) May 11, 1934. 1_/ A divorce takes effect
from the date a final decree is issued by the court. Divorce may be evidenced either
by a certified copy of the final decree or by a certification of divorce issued by
the civil registry office. 2_/ Thus, with respect to this case, the lack of an annotation
of divorce in Ms. Z~' civil registry record is not dispositive. The existence and
effective date of the alleged divorce may still be established by a certified copy
of a final decree.
1_/ Our discussion of Cuban law derives from information provided to this office by
the Hispanic Law Division, Law Library, Library of Congress.
2_/ The October 28, 1987 affidavit of Dr. Manuel B. M~ submitted by Ms. Z~ in support
of her claim is apparently consistent with our understanding of Cuban law. Dr. M~
states that for a “divorce to be valid, a 'decree of divorce' should exist,” and that
“[i]f there is no decree of divorce or certification of divorce in the civil Registry,
the marriage was not dissolved”.