PR 03435.238 Mexico
A. PR 79-004 David M~ — Social Security No. ~ — Vacation of Divorce Decree - Mexico
DATE: February 1, 1979
Under the laws of Guanajuato, Mexico, during the period from 1970 to 1973, the Court of Appeals had the jurisdiction to re- verse or revoke an earlier divorce decree by a lower Mexican court. (M~ , David — ~— GO (A~) to BRSI 2/1/79)
In connection with a claim for wife's insurance benefits under title II of the Social Security Act, you have asked us a question concerning the legal effect of a decision issued by an appellate court in Guanajuato, Mexico, reversing or revoking an earlier divorce decree issued by a lower Mexican court in Guanajuato, Mexico.
Background Facts of the Claim
The wage earner, David, married a woman named Ramona on December 29, 1957, in Salvatierra, Guanajuato, Mexico. About 13 years later, David filed divorce proceedings against his wife before the court of First Instance of the City of Salvatierra. This court granted the petition and issued a divorce decree on May 28, 1970. Ramona appealed this decision before the Court of Appeals. On October l4, 1970, this court upheld the judgment of the lower court. Ramona appealed again. This time, she filed Amparo proceedings before the Third Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Mexico. After hearing the case, the court found that David had failed to produce sufficient evidence to prove his action and, consequently, that the Court of First Instance was in error in granting the divorce petition. This judgment by the Supreme Court was forwarded to the Court of Appeals for execution. The Court of Appeals issued its judgment on November 3, 1973, which reproduced the judgment of the Supreme Court. Thus, the previous judgment of the Court of First Instance of Salvatierra was reversed.
On June 15, 1971, David married another woman in the State of Illinois. This woman is presently entitled to wife's benefits on David's account.
Ramona's first claim for wife's benefits was denied because of the existence of the divorce decree. Ramona has filed her claim again and, this time, she has submitted the decision of the Appellate Court reversing the divorce decree on judicial error.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) contacted the American Consulate General in Mexico to determine whether the court in question had appellate jurisdiction over the court which granted the divorce. That consulate answered SSA's inquiry by indicating that the document was genuine. Further, the social security representative in Mexico obtained information from a judge in Salvatierra which indicated that the court issuing the revocation decree had the jurisdiction to do so and that the revocation decree had the effect of annulling the divorce decree.
Issue of the Claim:
SSA may consider Ramona to be David's wife for purposes of wife's benefits under title II of the Social Security Act, if the courts of the State of David's domicile (at the time Ramona filed her application for social security benefits) would find that Ramona and David were validly married at the time of filing that application. Here, David was domiciled in Illinois. Under Illinois law, Illinois gives the same effect to a decree as does Mexico. Therefore, the issue before us involves the legal effect of the Appellate Court's decision on the divorced decree. (A copy of the Regional Attorney opinion on the effect in Illinois of a Mexican Appellate Court reversal of a Mexican lower court's divorce decree is attached.)
Resolution of the Issue:
We asked the law library of the Library of Congress for assistance and received a report on the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals and of the Supreme Court. A summary of this report is set forth below:
Jurisdiction of Court of Appeals. Under the laws of Guanajuato, Mexico in effect during the appeal process, sections 236 through 238 of the Code of Civil Procedure of Guanajuato (in force since April l, 1934) governed the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals. As translated, these sections read as follows:
“Art. 236. The purpose of the appeals proceedings is for the superior court to confirm, reverse, or modify the judgment or court order issued in first instance, with regard to those issues that cause the alleged injuries.
“Art. 237. An appeal may be admitted not suspending the execution of the judgment (efecto devolutivo) or suspending its execution (efecto suspensivo).
“Art. 238. An appeal that is admitted suspending the execution (of the judgment) suspends, of course, the execution of said judgment or court order, until (the new judgment) becomes final ....”
In other words, by virtue of the first appeal filed by the wife before the Court of Appeals, admitted under the provision of article 238 above, the effects of the divorce decree issued by the Court of First Instance were suspended; thus the divorce decree did not acquire the status of a final divorce dec