TN 20 (07-15)

PR 05005.023 Maryland

A. PR 15-143 Whether B~ is entitled to an underpayment of benefits on the record of his deceased wife and number holder, Y~.

Date: June 11, 2015

1. Syllabus

In determining the validity of the surviving widower’s marriage to the deceased insured, the Agency applies the law of the State where the NH was domiciled at the time of the NH’s death. In this case, the NH was domiciled in Maryland at the time of her death. Maryland courts recognize a marriage as valid if it was valid where contracted or solemnized and does not violate Maryland public policy.

Ghana recognizes three different forms of marriage; customary marriages, statutory marriages, and marriages contracted under Mohammedan rites. There essential requirements for contracting a valid customary marriage in Ghana and the customary marriage between the NH and spouse appears to have satisfied all of the essential requirements according to the Declarations that the spouse provided. Although marriages were not required to be registered after the passage of the Customary Marriage and Divorce (Registration) Amendment Law of 1991, the spouse registered his marriage to the NH with the Republic of Ghana. The registration was signed by the registrar and stamped with an official seal. Therefore, we believe that the marriage of the claimant and the NH in Ghana was valid, and as such, would be accepted as valid by the state of Maryland.

2. Opinion

Question Presented

On February 5, 2015, you requested a legal opinion regarding whether B~, the claimant, and Y~, the NH, were validly married in Ghana. [1]

Short Answer

We believe that the claimant and the NH were validly married in Ghana, and therefore, that the state of Maryland, where the NH was domiciled at the time of her death, would recognize the claimant’s marriage to the NH as valid.

Background

 

According to the documents that B~ provided, his uncle, who was the head of the family, led a delegation on November XX, 2004, to the home of the family of Y~ to perform the rites of a customary marriage including the requisite drinks, when the hand of Y~ was given in a marriage to B~ in the presence of both families. Y~’s mother signed a similar declaration. Both declarations were signed by notaries in the Superior Court of Judicture in the High Court of Justice and both declarations acknowledged that Y~ was not present at the ceremony. However, Y~’s mother represented that Y~ had “accepted the request for her hand in marriage.” The Document entitled “Form of Register of Customary Marriages” indicates that B~, who resided in Ghana, had no other existing marriages, and that Y~ was a resident of the U.S.A. Y~’s mother’s declaration indicted that Y~ was a resident of Maryland. The birth certificates that B~ provided, although somewhat illegible, indicate the birth of two children to Y~ - J~, a male child, on November XX, 2007, and K~, a female child (date illegible). There is a document from the State of Maryland indicating that Y~ died at Holy Cross Hospital of breast cancer resulting in renal and respiratory failure on April XX, 2013. Y~ was 32 years old when she married B~ in 2004, and was 41 years old when she died. B~ informed the field office that he and Y~ were members of the Akan ethnic group in Ghana. B~ also submitted a document from the Register of Wills for Montgomery County, Maryland, indicating that on May XX, 2013, he was appointed as personal representative of the administration of the estate of Y~, who died intestate.

Discussion

In determining the validity of the surviving widower’s marriage to the deceased insured, the Agency applies the law of the State where the insured was domiciled, i.e., had a permanent home, at the time of the insured’s death. Section 216(h)(1)(A) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.345. In this case, the NH was domiciled in Maryland at the time of her death.

Maryland courts recognize a marriage as valid if it was valid where contracted or solemnized and does not violate Maryland public policy. See Henderson v. Henderson, 87 A.2d 403, 408 (Md. 1952) (citations omitted); Blaw-Knox Construction Equipment Co. v. Morris, 596 A.2d 679, 685-86 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1991) (citations omitted). As previously stated, B~ submitted documentation that he and Y~ were married in Ghana. Accordingly, Maryland will recognize the marriage between B~ and Y~ as valid if it was valid in Ghana.

We consulted with a foreign law specialist in the Global Legal Research Center of the Law Library of Congress in determining whether a valid marriage occurred in Ghana. The specialist informed us that Ghana recognizes three different forms of marriage; customary marriages, statutory marriages, and marriages contracted under Mohammedan rites. The specialist advised that there are no uniform statutory or procedural rules governing the process of contracting a valid customary marriage because membership in a particular ethnic group determines the applicable laws, and there are as many laws governing marriage and divorce as there are ethnic groups. Akan, the largest ethnic group in Ghana, consists of various subgroups, which include the Asante, Fenti, and Akwapim. Although there may be small variations from one group to another, the essential requirements for contracting a valid customary marriage in Ghana, including under the Akan rites are:

  1. (1) 

    Agreement by the parities to live together as man and wife;

  2. (2) 

    Consent of the family of the man that he should have the woman as his wife, which may be indicated by the man’s family acknowledging the woman as the wife of the man;

  3. (3) 

    Consent of the family of the woman that she should be joined in marriage to the man; which is indicated by the acceptance of drink from the man or his family, or merely by the family of the woman acknowledging the man as the husband of the woman; and

  4. (4) 

    Consummation of the marriage, i.e. that the man and the woman are living together in the sight of the world as man and wife.

Because Y~ did not attend the ceremony, we specifically inquired as to whether it was possible to contract a customary marriage by proxy in Ghana. The foreign law specialist cited case law which held that the presence at the ceremony was not required in order for a marriage to be valid. All of the above listed requirements of a customary marriage appear to be satisfied according to the Declarations that B~ provided.

Although marriages were not required to be registered after the passage of the Customary Marriage and Divorce (Registration) Amendment Law of 1991, B~ registered his marriage to Y~ with the Republic of Ghana. The registration was signed by the registrar and stamped with an official seal. Therefore, we believe that the evidence proffered supports a finding that the marriage of B~ to Y~ in Ghana was valid.

Conclusion

We believe that the marriage of the claimant and the NH in Ghana was valid, and as such, would be accepted as valid by the state of Maryland.

Sincerely,

Nora Koch

Acting Regional Chief Counsel

By: /s/Patricia M. Smith

Patricia M. Smith

Assistant Regional Counsel

B. PR 06-108 Validity of Jamaican Marriage Under Maryland Law, Request for Name Change by Sara Therese P~, SSN ~

DATE: April 13, 2006

1. SYLLABUS

Maryland recognizes the validity of foreign marriages, provided the marriage is valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which such marriage was contracted or solemnized and would not violate Maryland's public policy. The only identified reasons for voiding a marriage under Jamaican law include situations where the person solemnizing the marriage was not a Marriage Officer, less than two witnesses were present, one of the parties to the marriage was less than age 16 years old, the parties to the marriage were within the prohibited degree of consanguinity or affinity, or the marriage involved two persons one of whom is at the point of death and not all formalities were followed.

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED

On March 14, 2006, you requested a legal opinion regarding: (1) Whether Maryland state law would recognize as valid the Jamaican marriage between Sara Therese Louise S~ and Thomas Stephen P~; (2) whether Maryland state law would recognize the Jamaican marriage as a basis for a legal name change to Sara Terese P~; and (3) whether the Jamaican Marriage Register is an acceptable document of sufficient probative value to change Ms. S~ name on her Social Security card to Sara Terese P~.

SUMMARY

Based on our review of the facts of this case and our research of relevant Maryland statutes and case law, we believe that: (1) Maryland state law would recognize the Jamaican marriage as valid; (2) Maryland state law would recognize the Jamaican marriage as a basis for a legal name change; and (3) the Jamaican Marriage Register is an acceptable document of sufficient probative value allowing SSA to change Ms. S~ name on her Social Security card to Sara Terese P~.

BACKGROUND

On February 23, 2006, Sara Terese Louise S~ filed an application to change her name on her Social Security card to Sara Terese P~. In support of her application, Ms. S~ submitted (1) a Untied States passport in the name of Sara Terese Louise S~ (including a photograph of a female individual, date of birth, and place of birth within the United States); (2) a Jamaican Marriage Register indicating that a marriage was solemnized between Sara Therese Louise S~ (23 years old) and Thomas Stephen P~ (23 years old) on July 16, 2004 by a Marriage Officer under the authority of a minister's licence; and (3) a Maryland driver's license issued on January 12, 2005 in the name of Sara Terese P~ (including a photograph of a female individual, date of birth, and physical characteristics of height and weight). Ms. S~ and Mr. P~ currently reside in Maryland and have been residents of that state since 1999. You advised us that Ms. S~ most recent application for a Social Security number was filed on July 8, 1998 in the name of Sara Therese S~.

DISCUSSION

A. Name Change Request Based on a Marriage in a Foreign Country

As you pointed out in your request for a legal opinion, a marriage document issued by a foreign jurisdiction is not presumed evidence of a legal name change for Social Security purposes. RM 00203.200H.2.d. This is because a United States state may not recognize a marriage performed in a foreign county and not all cultures and countries treat marriage as an event to legally change a name. Id.

When a United States resident files an application for a name change based on a marriage that occurred in a foreign county, whether SSA will change the applicant's legal name on his/her Social Security card depends on the laws of the state where he or she resides. RM 203.210B.1.d. If the state of residence recognizes the marriage, we assume it applies its own state law for a legal name change because of marriage to foreign marriages also. Id. As stated earlier, Ms. S~ resides in Maryland. Thus, in accordance with your request for a legal opinion, it is necessary to determine whether Maryland state law would recognize as valid the Jamaican marriage between Ms. S~ and Mr. P~.

B. Maryland State Law Would Consider the Jamaican Marriage Valid

Maryland courts recognize a marriage as valid if it was valid where contracted or solemnized and does not violate Maryland public policy. See Henderson v. Henderson, 87 A.2d 403, 408 (Md. 1952) (citations omitted); Blaw-Knox Construction Equipment Co. v. Morris, 596 A.2d 679, 685-86 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1991) (citations omitted). As previously stated, Ms. S~ submitted a Jamaican Marriage Register indicating that she married Mr. P~ in Jamaica. Accordingly, Maryland will recognize the marriage between Ms. S~ and Mr. P~ as valid if it was valid in Jamaica, the jurisdiction where it was solemnized.

The Jamaican Marriage Act states that a marriage may be solemnized under the authority of a (1) Civil Registrar's certificate or Civil Registrars' certificates; (2) Marriage Officer's certificate or Marriage Officers' certificates; (3) licence from a Minister; (4) licence from a Justice, the Clerk of a Resident Magistrate's Court, or any person appointed for the purpose by the Minister; or (5) without such authority as in the case involving a person who is in articulo mortis (at the point of death). See Marriage Act at 16; see also id. at 21 (explaining that a minister may grant a licence for marriage to persons intending to solemnize the marriage upon proof to the minister's satisfaction that no impediment to marriage exists).

Within three months of the issuance of the required certificate or license, a marriage may be solemnized between the parties if: (1) the marriage is solemnized in the presence of a Marriage Officer and two witnesses between the hours of six a.m. and eight p.m.; (2) the license is first delivered to the Marriage Officer by or before whom the marriage is to be solemnized; (3) each party to the marriage in the presence of the Marriage Officer and witnesses declares that he/she knows of no lawful impediment to the marriage of one another; (4) each party to the marriage declares to each other to take the other party to be his/her lawful wife/husband; (5) no lawful impediment to the marriage exists; and (6) the parties have reached age eighteen or have obtained the necessary consent. Id. at 24, 26-27. Immediately after the solemnization, the Marriage Officer, before whom the marriage was solemnized, is required to enter the marriage in a Marriage Register Book to be kept by him and in duplicate for filing with the Registrar-General in the General Register Office. Id. at 30-32, 39. The Marriage Register Book and the duplicate must be signed by the Marriage Officer, parties married, and the two witnesses to the marriage. Id. at 31. The Marriage Officer is required to deliver the duplicate register to the Registrar General and to provide a certified copy of the register to one of the parties to the marriage. Id. 32. Finally, the Marriage Act provides that the General Register Office is responsible for keeping registers of all marriages solemnized in Jamaica and shall provide a seal or stamp with all certified copies of documents issued out of its office. Id. at 39-40. The General Register Office must provide to any person (after payment of the appointed fee) a copy of any Marriage Register in the General Register Office and must bear the seal and stamp of the Registrar General Office. Id. at 47.

In this case, it appears that Ms. S~ marriage to Mr. P~ is valid under the Jamaican Marriage Act and would therefore be recognized by Maryland as a valid marriage. Ms. S~ submitted a Marriage Register issued by the Registrar General's Department which states it is a "certification of [a] vital record" and appears to bear both the seal and stamp of the Registrar General Office. As detailed above, such a document could only be issued if a Marriage Officer in Jamaica entered the marriage between Ms. S~ and Mr. P~ in the Marriage Register Book and delivered the duplicate register to the Registrar-General. Furthermore, the Marriage Register indicates that Ms. S~ obtained a minister's license, delivered it to the Marriage Officer, solemnized the marriage in the presence of a Marriage Officer (Sheldon L. A~) and two witnesses (Stephen G~ and Mary C~), both parties to the marriage were at least age eighteen years of age (both being 23 years old at the time of the marriage), and there is no evidence that a lawful impediment to the marriage existed. Thus, it appears that the marriage is valid under Jamaican law.

Additionally, there is a strong presumption in favor of marriage in that the Marriage Act states that no marriage shall be declared void on the ground that any of the conditions of the Marriage Act directed to be observed were not duly observed. Id. at 4. The only identified reasons for voiding a marriage under Jamaican law include situations where the person solemnizing the marriage was not a Marriage Officer, less than two witnesses were present, one of the parties to the marriage was less than age sixteen years old, the parties to the marriage were within the prohibited degree of consanguinity or affinity, or the marriage involved two persons one of whom is in articulo mortis (at the point of death) and not all formalities were followed. Id. at 3-4, 37. As there are no facts to indicate that the marriage should be deemed void, we believe that Jamaica would view this marriage as valid.

We also have no reason to believe that this marriage would violate Maryland public policy rendering it void. Under Maryland's statute, any marriage that is prohibited by statute is void. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 2-202 (2002). Void marriages include those within a certain degree of affinity or consanguinity and marriages involving certain minors. Id. Again, we do not have any facts to indicate that the Jamaican wedding included any circumstances that would offend Maryland's public policy. Accordingly, it is our legal opinion that Maryland would consider the Jamaican marriage between Ms. S~ and Mr. P~ valid.

In fact, Maryland's statutory scheme specifically requires each clerk to keep a foreign marriage record book in the clerks' office and to record the foreign marriage when presented with either a certificate of marriage signed by the individual who performed the marriage ceremony or an official certified copy of a marriage record. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 2-502 (1984). The clerk must provide, under seal of the court, certification of a foreign marriage in the same manner as he/she issues certification of a marriage performed in Maryland. Id. Thus, we believe that Maryland would recognize the Jamaican marriage as valid.

C. Maryland State Law Would Recognize the Jamaican Marriage as a Basis for a

Legal Name Change

As we previously advised you in our January 30, 2006 memorandum discussing various state requirements for a legal name change, Maryland law recognizes a ceremonial marriage as a basis for a legal name change upon presentation of a marriage certificate. We also advised that Maryland does not have a statute or published regulation that expressly articulates what surname can result from a marriage. However, we noted that the Circuit Court advised our office that, upon marriage: (1) a wife can adopt her husband's surname; (2) a husband can adopt his wife's surname; (3) a wife and husband can adopt a surname that hyphenates both of their surnames; but (4) neither a wife nor husband can adopt an entirely new surname. See also Stuart v. Board of Supervisors of Elections for Howard County, 295 A.2d 223, 226-27 (Md. 1972) (recognizing that a married woman may choose to adopt the surname of her husband). Accordingly, we believe that Maryland would recognize Ms. S~ Jamaican marriage as a basis for a legal name change to her husband's surname of P~.

We also note, as further support that Maryland would recognize the Jamaican marriage as a basis for a legal name change, that the Maryland Department of Transportation specifically allows an individual to change his/her name on a driver's license based upon marriage. Md. Code Regs. 11.17.09.04(G). In fact, Ms. S~ submitted her Maryland driver's license issued on January 12, 2005, demonstrating that Maryland allowed her to change her last name to P~. For all the above reasons, we believe that Maryland would recognize, and did recognize, Ms. S~ marriage to Mr. P~ in Jamaica as a basis for changing her legal name to adopt her husband's surname.

D. The Jamaican Marriage Register is an Acceptable Document of Sufficient Probative Value to Change Ms. S~ Name on Her Social Security Card Beginning December 2005, an applicant must meet specific evidentiary requirements to change the name on his/her Social Security card. RM 00203.001A. In name change situations, the applicant must submit the name change document (the document that shows the name change event). Id. SSA also requires an applicant to submit evidence of identity showing his/her legal name when applying for a replacement Social Security card, especially where the applicant seeks a name change. RM 203.200B.5. For a marriage document or marriage record to suffice as an acceptable identity document, it must show, in addition to the new name, biographical information that can be compared with the data on the application for a name change and/or physical information that can be compared with the applicant. RM 0203.200G.2.; RM 00203.210B.

In this case, we believe the Marriage Register alone is an acceptable identity document supporting the legal name change on Ms. S~ Social Security card. The Marriage Register contains biographical information (age) in addition to Ms. S~ legal name which can be compared with the data on her application for a name change. While the Marriage Register does not include the "new name," we note that SSA issued guidance on January 13, 2006, stating that SSA "can accept a marriage document as a legal name change document if the new name can be derived from the marriage document" so long as the document contains the required biographical information. See National Question & Answer, Tracking number 06-007 (electronically accessible via link from RM 00203.210). Inasmuch as the requested name change to "Sara Terese P~" can be easily derived from the names of Sara Therese Louise S~ and Thomas Stephen P~, and the document contains biographical information in the form of Ms. S~ age, we believe the marriage certificate is sufficient evidence for Ms. S~'s name change.

We note that even if the Marriage Register alone was insufficient, Ms. S~ submitted additional documentation that would allow SSA to change her legal name. An applicant can also satisfy the requirements for a name change by submitting, in addition to the name change document, two identity documents listed in RM 00203.200E. RM 00203.210B. One identity document must show the old name (the name on the latest Numident record) while the other identity document must show the new name (the name to be shown on the Social Security card). Id. The identity documents submitted must include either a photograph of the applicant or provide biographical information that can be compared with the Numident data. Id. SSA complied priority lists of acceptable identity documents. RM 203.200E. Identity documents of the highest probative value for a United States citizen age eighteen and older include a United States driver's license and U.S. passport. RM 00203.200E.6.

In this case, Ms. S~ submitted identity documents of the highest probative value. In addition to the Marriage Register (the name change document), Ms. S~ submitted a United States passport in the name of "Sara Therese Louise S~" which includes her date and place of birth as well as a Maryland driver's license in the name of "Sara Terese P~" which includes her date of birth and physical characteristics of height and weight. Both identity documents also include photographs that can be compared with Ms. S~ most recent Numident data. Thus, as long as the aforementioned documentation is consistent with Ms. S~ most recent Numident data, she has submitted documentation of sufficient probative value to change her name to "Sara Terese P~" on her Social Security card.

CONCLUSION

For the reasons outlined above, we believe that (1) Maryland state law would recognize the Jamaican marriage as valid; (2) Maryland state law would recognize the Jamaican marriage as a basis for a legal name change; and (3) the Jamaican Marriage Register is an acceptable document of sufficient probative value allowing SSA to change Ms. S~ name on her Social Security card to Sara Terese P~.

James A. W~
Regional Chief Counsel

By:__________________________
Kelly C. C~
Assistant Regional Counsel

C. PR 02-065 Validity of Marital Relationship Between Eugene John B~ and Lisa Gaye M~, SSN: ~

DATE: April 3, 2002

1. SYLLABUS

Maryland law would apply in assessing the validity of the subsequent marriage of the claimant for father's benefits. However, Maryland law provides that a marriage is valid if it is valid under the law of the jurisdiction iin which it was celebrated unless it is contrary to the public policy of Maryland. Unless it is proven that the claimant's spouse's prior marriage was not valid because he was married to someone else, the claimant's marriage would most likely be valid under West Virginia law, but is against public policy of the State of Maryland. If it is proven that the claimant's spouse's prior marriage was invalid, her marriage to the claimant would be valid, and his father's benefits were correctly terminated.

NOTE: Additional development must be done in this case to determine whether the claimant's spouse's prior marriage was valid.

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED.

On February 27, 2002, you asked us for a legal opinion on which state's law would apply regarding the marital relationship of Eugene J. B~ and Lisa Gaye M~. You also asked for an opinion as to whether the marriage would be valid under applicable law.

SUMMATION

Based on our review of the facts in this case and our research of the relevant statutes and case law, we believe that Maryland law would apply in assessing the validity of the marriage of Eugene B~ and Lisa Gaye M~. However, Maryland law provides that a marriage is valid if it is valid under the law of the jurisdiction in which it was celebrated unless it is contrary to the public policy of Maryland. The marriage of Lisa Gaye M~ and Eugene B~ would most likely be valid under West Virginia law, but is against public policy of the state of Maryland. Accordingly, the marriage of Lisa Gaye M~ and Eugene B~ would not be valid under Maryland law.

BACKGROUND

In your request, you stated that Lisa Gaye M~ was married to Perry M~ in June 1997 in Kentucky. They ceased cohabitation as man and wife in July 1999, but did not obtain a divorce until June 2001. Ms. M~ alleges that her marriage to Mr. M~ was not valid because he was married to another individual who was alive at the time of his marriage to Lisa Gaye M~.

Eugene B~ filed an application for father's benefits on the account of his first wife, Heather A. B~, in July 1998. He was awarded benefits beginning in June 1998. On August 19, 1999, Eugene B~ married Lisa Gaye M~ in West Virginia. Mr. B~ continued to cohabit with Lisa Gaye M~ after her divorce from Perry M~. Eugene B~ continued to receive father's benefits on the account of his first wife, Heather B~, through November 2001.

Both Mr. B~ and Ms. Gaye M~ currently live in Maryland.

DISCUSSION

Marriage of Lisa Gaye M~ and Perry M~

In order to determine whether the marriage of Lisa Gaye M~ and Eugene B~ was valid, we must first determine whether Lisa Gaye M~ was legally married to another individual, Perry M~, at the time of her marriage to Eugene B~.

A claimant's marital status is determined under the law of the jurisdiction in which he resides on the date of his application for benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(1)(A)(i). Mr. B~ was a resident of Maryland when he applied for father's benefits. Accordingly, Maryland law applies in assessing Mr. B~'s marital status.

Maryland law and social security policy provides that a marriage is valid everywhere if it is valid in the state in which it was celebrated. United States v. Seay, 718 F.2d 1279, 1285 n.10 (4th Cir. 1983); Blaw-Knox Construction Equipment Co. v. Morris, 596 A.2d 679, 685-86 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1991); POMS GN 00305.005. Accordingly, the marriage of Lisa Gaye M~ and Perry M~ is valid in Maryland if it was valid in Kentucky, where the marriage was celebrated.

If Perry M~ was in fact married to another individual at the time he married Lisa Gaye M~, then his marriage to Lisa Gaye M~ was void. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 402.020 (Banks-Baldwin 1998); Ferguson v. Ferguson, S.W.2d 925, 926-27 (Ky. Ct. App. 1981). In other words, Kentucky law does not require a judicial decree of nullity for bigamous marriages. If Ms. Gaye M~ can provide proof that Perry M~ was already married at the time of their June 1997 wedding, then her first marriage was void and she was never legally married to Perry M~. Proof of Perry M~'s alleged conviction for bigamy would establish that Perry M~ was already married at the time he attempted to marry Lisa Gaye M~.

If Ms. Gaye M~ cannot provide proof that Perry M~ was legally married to another individual at the time of their June 1997 wedding, then her marriage to Perry M~ would be presumed to be legal under Kentucky law. Griffin v. Beddow, 268 S.W.2d 403, 404-05 (Ky. 1954); see Scott's Adm'r v. Scott, 77 S.W. 1122, 1124-25 (Ky. 1904) (holding that there is a favor in presumption of the legitimacy of a second marriage absent evidence of bigamy).

Marriage of Eugene B~ and Lisa Gaye M~

If Lisa Gaye M~'s marriage to Perry M~ was void, then there is no doubt that her marriage to Eugene B~ was valid. Maryland law would again apply, directing that a marriage is valid everywhere if it is valid in the state where it was celebrated. Blaw-Knox, 596 A.2d at 685-86; POMS GN 00305.005. Eugene B~ and Lisa Gaye M~ were married in August 1999 in West Virginia. West Virginia law would provide no impediment to the marriage of Lisa Gaye M~ and Eugene B~ if Lisa Gaye M~'s earlier marriage to Perry M~ was void under Kentucky law.

If Ms. M~'s earlier marriage to Perry M~ was not void, then her second marriage to Eugene B~ would be voidable, not void, under West Virginia law. W. Va. Code § 48-3-103 (2001); Spradlin v. State Compensation Comm'r, 113 S.E. 2d 832, 834-35 (W. Va. 1960). Accordingly, her marriage to Eugene B~ would remain valid until a judicial decree of nullity was rendered. W. Va. Code § 48-3-103 (2001); Harvey v. Harvey, 298 S.E. 2d 467, 470-71 (W. Va. 1982). There has been no such decree in this case. In fact, Mr. B~ and Ms. M~ have continued to live together as husband and wife at all times after their August 1999 marriage. In addition, West Virginia law presumes that a marriage is valid absent clear evidence to the contrary. Meade v. State Compensation Comm'r, 125 S.E. 2d 771, 775-76 (W. Va. 1962). Accordingly, even absent proof that the marriage of Lisa Gaye M~ and Perry M~ was void, the marriage of Eugene B~ and Lisa Gaye M~ would be valid under West Virginia law.

However, a caveat to Maryland matrimonial law may render the West Virginia marriage of Eugene B~ and Lisa Gaye M~ invalid in Maryland despite the fact that it would be valid under West Virginia law. Maryland law provides that a marriage is valid if it is valid where celebrated unless it violates public policy of the state in which it is subjected to attack. Henderson v. Henderson, 87 A.2d 403, 409 (Md. 1952). Two examples of such violations of public policy are (1) "marriages which are deemed contrary to the law of nature as generally recognized in Christian countries; such as polygamous and incestuous marriages"; and (2) "marriages which the local lawmaking power has declared shall not be allowed any validity." Id. A bigamous marriage, which is a form of polygamous marriage, would therefore be in violation of the public policy of Maryland and would not be considered valid regardless of whether it was valid in the state of West Virginia. Accordingly, under controlling Maryland law, the marriage of Eugene B~ and Lisa Gaye M~ would not be valid because Ms. M~'s marriage to Peter M~ had not been dissolved when she married Eugene B~ in 1999.

Two possible issues remain. The first issue is whether Lisa Gaye M~ and Eugene B~ could establish a common law marriage after her divorce from Perry M~ in June 2001. Maryland does not permit common law marriages, but will recognize common law marriages that meet the requirements for a common law marriage in the state in which the common law marriage was contracted. Goldin v. Goldin, 426 A.2d 410, 412-13 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1981); Blaw-Knox, 596 A.2d at 686. West Virginia law does not permit common law marriages.

W. Va. Code § 48-2-101 (2001); Goode v. Goode, 396 S.E.2d 430, 432-35 (W. Va. 1990). Accordingly, Eugene B~ and Lisa Gaye M~ do not have a valid common law marriage under Maryland law.

The second question is whether the agency would deem Mr. B~ and Ms. Gaye M~ married. However, social security regulations appear to allow the agency to deem a valid marriage only in order to award social security benefits, not to terminate social security benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 216(h)(1)(A)(ii), (B); 20 C.F.R. § 404.346 (2001). Accordingly, there does not appear to be any basis for deeming Mr. B~ married to Ms. Gaye M~.

CONCLUSION

Based on the evidence currently available, Ms. Gaye M~'s marriage to Mr. M~ would be presumed valid until proven void by Ms. M~. Accordingly, she was married to Mr. M~ at the time she attempted to marry Eugene B~. Her marriage to Eugene B~ is voidable under West Virginia law, but has not been voided. Nonetheless, her marriage to Eugene B~ would be invalid under Maryland law because it is against public policy. Therefore, Ms. Gaye M~ and Mr. B~ are not married under Maryland law.

Mr. B~'s benefits should not have been terminated because he was not remarried under controlling law.

If evidence is submitted showing that Perry M~ was married to another living individual at the time that he purported to marry Lisa Gaye M~, then the marriage of Perry M~ and Lisa Gaye M~ would be void and invalid. Accordingly, there would be no impediment to the marriage of Lisa Gaye M~ and Eugene B~. If such evidence is obtained, Mr. B~'s benefits would have been appropriately terminated as of the date of his remarriage in August 1999.

 

James A. W~
Regional Chief Counsel

 

By:__________________________
Kelly C. C~
Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

We apologize for the delay in responding due to the necessity of foreign law research by the Library of Congress, and the need to contact the claimant for clarification of his tribal affiliation.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1505005023
PR 05005.023 - Maryland - 07/14/2015
Batch run: 07/14/2015
Rev:07/14/2015