Whether a marriage is “void” or “voidable,” for purposes of determining an individual’s
entitlement to reinstatement of surviving mother’s benefits, when one party to the
marriage is already married. The parties were married in Utah and an Oregon court
entered a judgment of annulment.
A marriage is void under Utah and Oregon law when one party is already married. Therefore,
surviving mother’s benefits should be reinstated as of the month of the prior termination
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE
Ms. H received surviving mother’s benefits on the record of her deceased spouse, Mr.
H, after his death in February 2002. She received benefits through January 2008, when
the benefits terminated due to her marriage to Mr. C on February 15, 2008, in Utah.
In September 2008, an Oregon court entered a judgment of annulment on the ground that
the marriage was void because Mr. C was married to another woman. The court also awarded
spousal support in the amount of $400.00 per month for a period of twelve months for
Ms. H’s lost surviving mother’s benefits.
For purposes of reinstating benefits previously terminated because of remarriage,
the agency distinguishes between marriages that are “voidable” and marriages that
are “void” under applicable state law. Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN
00305.130, 00305.125. A “void” marriage is “a marriage which is legally nonexistent from the
beginning under State law, with or without a judicial decree.” POMS GN 00305.125. Benefits previously terminated because of remarriage that is determined to be void
are reinstated as of the month of the prior termination. POMS GN 00305.125.
In this matter, the parties married in Utah, but an Oregon court entered the judgment
of annulment. Ordinarily, the law of the place in which the marriage occurred determines
the validity of the marriage. POMS GN 00305.005. In Utah, a marriage is void when there is a husband or wife living, from whom the
person marrying has not been divorced. Utah Code Ann. § 30-1-2. Similarly such a marriage
is also “void from the beginning” under Oregon law. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 106.020(1),
107.005(1). Accordingly, the marriage was void under the laws of either state. Therefore,
Ms. H’s surviving mother’s benefits should be reinstated as of February 2008, the
month of termination.
It is our opinion that Ms. H’s marriage to Mr. C was void under Utah and Oregon law.
Her surviving mother’s benefits should be reinstated effective February 2008.