TN 1 (01-06)

PR 05105.052 Virginia

A. PR 08-117 Donald M~ SSN ~

DATE: May 27, 2008

1. SYLLABUS

Under Virginia law, the State could refuse to recognize the foreign divorce since neither spouse was a good faith domiciliary in the foreign country at the time of divorce. However, the State would find the divorce valid since there is a strong presumption that a subsequent marriage is valid and that prior marriages were terminated by divorced or death. Virginia court would apply the principles of of estoppel and laches to find the divorce valid and bar any challenge to the validity of the divorce.

2. OPINION

OPINION

We have received your April 3, 2008 request for a legal opinion as to "whether New York Courts recognize the validity of the Mexican divorce between Number Holder ("NH") and Bonner M.B. M~ and if New York applies the estoppel principle for divorce and if Bonner M.B. M~ is the legal spouse of the Number Holder."

We conclude that:

1) The laws of Virginia govern in this case

2) The finding of PR 02-047 is dispositive of this case

3) Virginia would recognize the validity of the Mexican divorce

FACTS*

A marriage license shows the NH married Bonner M~ B. in Houston, Texas, on June 2, 1960. According to the Columbia, Maryland District Manager's memorandum, in November, 1970, the NH was living in New York. In November 1970, Mrs. M~ was living in Texas, according to her caregiver. On November 6, 1970, the NH and Mrs. M~ entered into a _*separation agreement in Houston, Texas. According to the NH, he became a resident of Mexico for one day and obtained a divorce from Bonner M~ on 11/7/70.

A copy of the divorce decree from the first civil court of Ciudad J~, Chihuahua, Mexico, states that the NH personally appeared before the subscribing judge, ratified the complaint including his express submission to the jurisdiction and competence of the court, and submitted the certificate of his inscription in the Official Registry of the City of Chihuahua. An attorney for Ms. Bonner M~ appeared and answered the complaint, and expressly submitted his client to the jurisdiction of the court. The divorce decree further approved and adopted the existing separation agreement.

The NH filed a claim for retirement benefits on April 1, 1999. According to that claim, the NH remarried in February 1975 in Florida.

Bonner M~ filed an application for spouse's benefits on the NH's record on February 15, 2008. You have informed us that the NH is alive and receiving retirement benefits in Virginia. You have told us that based on ORS, CSR, his MBR, and the THIS query, you believe the NH resided in the state of Virginia at the time Bonner M~ filed her claim for benefits on the NH's account.

ANALYSIS

GN 00305.170 states that the determination of the validity of a divorce is based on the law of the state of the worker's domicile at the time of filing of an application for divorced spouse's benefits. In this case, assuming that Mr. M~ was domiciled in Virginia at the time of Bonner M~'s filing for divorced spouse's benefits, the law of Virginia would apply to determine whether the divorce was valid.

The analysis from a precedential opinion regarding Virginia law (PR 02-047) found in the POMS at PR 06210.052, governs the analysis in this case. In the Virginia case of Richard H. M~, the Agency determined that Virginia would find that a Mexican divorce was valid under circumstances parallel to those in the M~ divorce.

In the Richard H. M~ case, Isabelle L. M~ married Donald T~ on June 4, 1952 and obtained a divorce from J~, Mexico on November 29, 1963. Both parties were domiciled in New York at the time of the divorce. Isabelle appeared in person in the Mexican court and proved that she was registered in the official book of residents of J~. Donald T~ was represented by an attorney and expressly submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. A separation agreement previously entered into by the couple was incorporated into the divorce decree. Both parties remarried. Isabelle's second husband, Richard M~ died on October 29, 2001 and Isabelle applied for surviving spouse's benefits on Richard M~'s record.

The Agency determined that under Virginia law, while generally a foreign divorce will be recognized as valid, that is not the case when neither spouse was a good-faith domiciliary in the foreign country. So the Agency concluded that Virginia could refuse to recognize the divorce because neither Isabelle nor Donald T~ was domiciled in Mexico at the time of the divorce. However, the Agency went on to find that a Virginia court would likely find the divorce valid because there is a strong presumption under state law that a marriage last-in-time is valid and that prior marriages were terminated by divorce or death.

Additionally, the Agency determined that a Virginia court would apply the doctrine of estoppel to find the divorce was valid, since both Isabelle and Donald T~ submitted to the Mexican court's jurisdiction. Alternatively, the court would apply the doctrine of laches to preclude any challenge to the divorce's validity because of the delay in time before any attack on the divorce and the ex-husband's remarriage.

The M~ divorce parallels the factual situation in the Richard M~ case, and therefore, we conclude that Virginia would find the Mexican divorce to be valid.

Very truly yours,
Barbara L. S~
Chief Counsel
By: ____________
Jennifer S. R~
Assistant Regional Counsel

_* The only documents provided are the divorce decree, marriage license, and copy of Mrs. M~'s application for spouse's benefits. The remainder of the facts are derived from the memorandums from your office and the Columbia, MD, District Manager. This opinion is based on the facts as presented. However, we recommend verification of the address of the NH at the time of the filing of Mrs. M~'s application since it is crucial to the application of the appropriate state's law.

B. PR 07-177 Reply to Your Request For a Legal Opinion as to Whether John. E~, the Deceased Number Holder (SSN ~) and Mary M. E~ Had a Valid Marriage Under the Law of Virginia.

DATE: July 11, 2007

1. SYLLABUS

Under Virginia law there is a rebuttable presumption of the validity of the second marriage and of the dissolution of the first marriage by divorce. The Agency must determine if the NH's prior marriage terminated before applying the validity of the last marriage presumption. The party seeking to overcome the presumption of the validity of the second marriage has a burden of showing that no divorce was entered in jurisdictions where the parties resided or where on any reasonable basis a decree might have been obtained.

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED

You requested our opinion as to whether John E~ (the Number Holder) and Mary M. E~ had a valid marriage under the law of Virginia.

SUMMARY

We have reviewed the information that you provided and have researched the relevant provisions of Virginia law. Based on the information provided, it appears possible that the marriage between the Number Holder and Mary M. E~, the Number Holder's second marriage, may not have been valid under the law of Virginia because a prior marriage between the Number Holder and May Q~ E~ had not been dissolved by divorce. We believe, however, that additional development of the record is necessary because the evidence is insufficient to overcome the presumption of the validity of the last marriage under Virginia law.

BACKGROUND

Your memorandum of May 31, 2007 stated that May Q~ R~ and the Number Holder, who were then both single, married on October 17, 1964 in Emporia, Virginia. Additional information from May Q~ E~ (May Q~) indicated that she and the Number Holder separated in 1979 or 1980, that both she and the Number Holder continued to live in Virginia after the separation, and that she never filed for divorce, was never notified that the Number Holder had filed for divorce, and never received any divorce papers. A document provided with the memorandum shows that the Commonwealth of Virginia has no record of a divorce between the Number Holder and "May Q~ E~" during the period 1970 through January 2006. We have also been informed that the Number Holder died on June 5, 1995 and that May Q~ filed an application for disabled widow's benefits in March 2006 and that her application was approved.

With respect to Mary M. E~, the documents provided advise that she was divorced from Nathaniel S~ on September 10, 1979, that she married the Number Holder on May 10, 1989 in Emporia, Virginia, that she applied for disabled widow's benefits in December 1999, and that her application was approved at the reconsideration level in June 2000.

DISCUSSION

  1. The Applicable Federal Regulations

    The federal regulations at 20 C.F.R.§ 404.345 provide that if a claimant and the insured were validly married under the law of the state of the insured's permanent residence at the time of his death, the relationship requirements of widow or widower for purposes of the Social Security Act are met.

  2. Virginia Law

    We assume for purposes hereof that the Number Holder died a Virginia domiciliary as he appears to have been a resident of Virginia from birth through most of his life. We further assume that a death certificate has been provided to the Agency (although not to us) establishing that fact. Under the laws of Virginia, a marriage entered into prior to the dissolution of an earlier marriage of one of the parties, is prohibited and void. Va. Code Ann. §§ 20-38.1(a) (1); 20-43; 20-45.1(a). However, where two marriages of the same person are shown, there is a strong but rebuttable presumption that the second marriage is valid because it is presumed that the prior marriage was terminated by death or divorce. Hewitt v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 490 F.Supp. 1358, 1362 (E.D.Va. 1980); De Ryder v, Metropolitan Life Insurance Corp., 145 S.E. 2d 166 (1965); Parker v. American Lumbar Corp., 56 S.E.2d 214, 216 (Va. 1949).

  3. The Evidence Presented Strongly Indicates that the Marriage of the Number Holder and May Q~ Was Not Dissolved By Divorce and Thus that the Marriage between the Number Holder and Mary M. Was Not Valid.

    As stated above, the Number Holder and May Q~ were married in Emporia, Virginia on October 17, 1964. The certificate of marriage shows that both the Number Holder and May Q~ were born in Virginia and that the Number Holder then resided in Virginia. The Number Holder's history of earnings indicates that his employment was for employers situated in Virginia. The Number Holder and Mary M. were married in Virginia. As stated above, we are assuming that the Agency has evidence that the Number Holder died in Virginia. Information generated in connection with their applications for disabled widow's benefits show that both Mary M. and May Q~ continue to reside in Virginia. May Q~ has stated that both she and the Number Holder lived in Virginia after their separation in 1979 or 1980. The Number Holder's ties to Virginia are thus significant and lifelong. Virginia is likely to be the state in which the Number Holder would have obtained a divorce from May Q~, if he actually had done so.

    It is, accordingly, significant that the Commonwealth of Virginia has provided a report that no record of a divorce of the Number Holder and May Q~ was found in its records for the period 1970 through January 2006. Additionally, May Q~ has stated that she never filed for divorce, that she was never notified that the Number Holder had filed for divorce, and that she never received any divorce papers. The information provided to date thus strongly indicates that the marriage between the Number Holder and May Q~ had not been dissolved by divorce when the Number Holder and Mary M. married in Emporia, Virginia on May 10, 1989 and thus that the purported second marriage was not valid under Virginia law. Va. Code Ann. §§ 20-38.1(a) (1); 20-43; 20-45.1(a). The only evidence to the contrary of which we are aware is Mary M. statement on her application for benefits that the Number Holder had been previously married and that the prior marriage ended in divorce; Mary M. did not provide proof of that divorce. Since we do not have a copy of the application, we do not know whether she provided information concerning the date or state of the alleged divorce.

  4. Although the Evidence Presented Indicates that the Marriage of the Number Holder and May Q~ Was Not Dissolved By Divorce and Thus that the Marriage Between the Number Holder And Mary M. Was Not Valid, the Record Is Not Sufficiently Developed To Show that the Presumption of the Validity of the Second Marriage to Mary M. Has Been Overcome.

    Although the evidence presented indicates that the marriage of the Number Holder and May Q~ was not dissolved by divorce and thus that the marriage between the Number Holder and Mary M. was not valid, the information and documents provided to date are not sufficient to show that the presumption of the validity of the second marriage to Mary M. has been overcome.

    As stated above, under Virginia law, there is a rebuttable presumption of the validity of the second marriage and of the dissolution of the first marriage by divorce. First, and most significantly, the search of divorce records by the Commonwealth of Virginia was limited to the period 1970 through January 2006 but should also include the period 1964 to 1970, notwithstanding May Q~'s recollection that she and the Number Holder "separated" in 1979 or 1980. There is also an issue concerning different spellings of May Q~'s name as well as the statement of the Number Holder's name since on the marriage certificate with Mary M., his name is stated as "John E~" and not "John E~, Jr." as it is stated on the marriage certificate with May Q~. We cannot state whether the results of the search of divorce records by the Commonwealth of Virginia would be different if the "alternate" names were also searched.

    Next, the documents provided to us do not include evidence, even by way of clear statement, that the Number Holder and May Q~ resided in Virginia at all times during their marriage. Such evidence is important in light of the presumption of the validity of a second marriage under Virginia law because a party challenging the second union is required to "introduce such evidence as, in the absence of all counter testimony, will afford reasonable grounds for presuming that the former marriage was not dissolved." Hewitt v. Firestone Tire & Rubber, 490 F.Supp.1358, 1362 (E.D.Va. 1980) (citations omitted). While the party seeking to overcome the presumption of the validity of the second marriage is not compelled to document the absence of a divorce in every jurisdiction where one could have been obtained, the "Virginia litigant seeking to negate the existence of a divorce generally does have a burden, however, of showing that no divorce was entered in jurisdictions where the parties resided or where on any reasonable basis a decree might have been obtained." Id. at 1364.

    For the same reasons and to comply with POMS GN ATL00305.030 Presumption Validity of Last Marriage (PVLM), additional information concerning the locations in which the Number Holder lived since separating from May Q~ and a search of North Carolina divorce records are required. Although May Q~ has stated that the Number Holder lived in Virginia after their separation, information on the marriage application for the second marriage to Mary M. indicates that he was residing in North Carolina in May 1989. PVLM provides that, in order to determine whether the prior marriage terminated or continued, the whereabouts of the parties to a prior marriage must be traced from the time of separation to the date of the insured's death. A presumption that the prior marriage terminated and the current marriage is valid applies only if "the whereabouts of the parties cannot be traced for the entire period in question, thus, making it impossible for all divorce records to be searched." POMS GN ATL00305.030. See also POMS GN 00305.040 Development - Presumption of Validity of Last Marriage (stating that if the information obtained covers all of the involved parties' places of residence from the date of separation until death and the evidence shows the marriage did not terminate, presumption of validity of last marriage cannot be applied).

CONCLUSION

The evidence is insufficient to conclude that the presumption of validity of the second marriage has been overcome for the various reasons set forth above. These include the limitations on the search of the divorce records of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the need for a more detailed tracing of the various places that the Number Holder resided, and the indication that he lived in North Carolina for at least some period of time after separation from May Q~ so as to warrant a search of the divorce records of North Carolina. Additional development of the record is recommended. We recommend that the divorce records of the Commonwealth of Virginia as well as the State of North Carolina be searched from 1964 through 1995, the year in which the Number Holder died, under all name variations used by May Q~ and the Number Holder; we also recommend that a more comprehensive statement be obtained from May Q~ and from Mary M. as to all places in which the Number Holder lived or resided at any time during the same period. We also confirm that we assume that the Agency has a death certificate showing the date of death of the Number Holder as well as his residence at the time of death and his place of death. If on and after further development of the record as recommended, the divorce records of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of North Carolina show that no divorce was granted in dissolution of the marriage of May Q~ and the Number Holder in those jurisdictions and there is no indication that the Number Holder resided in any other state, it is most likely that the marriage of the Number Holder and Mary M. would be invalid under the law of Virginia.

Michael M~

Regional Chief Counsel
By:___________________________
Margaret M~
Assistant Regional Counsel

C. PR 05-137 (Virginia) Validity of Marital Relationship Between Number Holder (Howard W~) and Sandra N. W~, SSN ~

DATE: April 20, 2005

1. SYLLABUS

The Agency must determine if the NH's prior marriage terminated before applying the validity of the last marriage presumption. Under Virginia law, if it is proven that the last spouse was not validly married to the NH at the time of his death, the law would probably decline to find the spouse the "surviving spouse" for purposes of inheriting NH's personal property if he were to die without leaving a will. The last marriage does not meet the criteria necessary to qualify for benefits under the deemed valid marriage provision of the Act or under Virginia law. A deemed valid marriage is created only if the parties to the marriage were living in the same household when the NH died (§404.346).

2. OPINION

  1. INTRODUCTION

    You have requested an opinion regarding whether the marriage between claimant, Sandra N. W~, and the Number Holder, Howard W~ ("NH"), is valid under Virginia law. In addition, because this case involves two individuals claiming to be the surviving spouse of NH for purposes of entitlement to widows' benefits, a corollary issue is the type of benefits, if any, to which each spouse is entitled.

    For the reasons explained below, we conclude that further development is necessary to confirm whether NH's marriage to Carolyn, his first wife, terminated or continued. If his marriage to Carolyn terminated, Sandra presumably qualifies as the legal surviving spouse and is entitled to widow's benefits. If his marriage to Carolyn continued, Carolyn is the legal surviving spouse. Furthermore, Sandra is not entitled to benefits based upon a deemed valid marriage.

  2. FACTS

    As we understand the facts, on June 5, 1976, NH allegedly married Carolyn B. in Putnam, Connecticut, in a ceremony performed by a clergyman or public official.

    According to Carolyn, prior to their marriage in 1976, she and NH lived together and had two children, Howard W~ III, born on March 29, 1969, and Joseph W~, born on November 13, 1971. They lived in Putnam, Connecticut until 1978 when they moved to Norfolk, Virginia. In 1980, the couple separated; Carolyn moved to Worcester, Massachusetts with the children and NH remained in Virginia. Carolyn never lived with NH again, although he stayed with her in Connecticut for a couple of days in 1993 before returning to Virginia. Carolyn contends that she and NH were separated but never divorced.

    On June 5, 1984, NH married Sandra N. M~ in Suffolk, Virginia, in a ceremony performed by a minister. On the marriage register, NH indicated that this was his first marriage and that he was neither widowed nor divorced. According to Sandra, before they were married, NH told her that his only marriage to a seventeen year old woman named Frances was annulled within ten days. (A woman named Frances purportedly contacted Sandra in 2004 and confirmed that her marriage to NH had been annulled). NH stated that he had no previous marriages besides his marriage to Frances.

    NH also told Sandra that he had lived in Massachusetts as a young man and had fathered two children there, but his sons would have nothing to do with him since he had left their mother, a woman named Carolyn. Sandra lived with NH in Suffolk, Virginia until 1994 when NH left her and moved to Norfolk, Virginia.

    On January 16, 2004, NH died in Norfolk, Virginia. The certificate of death lists Sandra W~ as his wife. Carolyn B. W~ claims that she did not know of NH's family in Virginia until his death.

    On April 9, 2004, Carolyn B. W~ applied for Social Security lump sum death benefit and widow's benefits in Putnam, Connecticut.

    Her application was granted and she currently receives $530 per month.

    On August 2, 2004, Sandra N. W~ applied for widow's insurance benefits.

    On November 16, 2004, the Commonwealth of Virginia confirmed that no divorce records were found for either Howard W~ and Sandra N. M~ or Howard W~ and Carolyn B. [sic].

    A report of contact from February 3, 2005 indicates that no divorce records were found for Howard W~ and Sandra W~ in Putnam, Connecticut. No inquiry was made with regard to Carolyn B. W~.

  3. DISCUSSION

    Under the Social Security Act, the widow or widower of an insured individual is entitled to benefits as the insured's surviving spouse provided he or she meets certain requirements. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.355 (2004). To decide the relationship of a claimant as the insured's widow or widower, the Commissioner will look to the laws of the State where the insured had a permanent home when he or she died. 20 C.F.R. § 404.345. If a claimant is validly married under State law at the time of the insured's death, the relationship requirement is met. 20 C.F.R. § 404.345. The relationship requirement can also be met if State law would allow the claimant to inherit a widow's or widower's share of the insured's personal property if the insured died without leaving a will. 20 C.F.R. § 404.345.

    In addition, the Act permits the Commissioner to find that a marriage is valid if the claimant establishes that he or she had a "deemed valid marriage" with the insured. 20 C.F.R. § 404.346. A "deemed valid marriage" is created when the claimant in good faith participates in a marriage ceremony with the insured resulting in a purported marriage between them which, but for a legal impediment not known to the claimant at the time of the ceremony, would have been a valid marriage. 20 C.F.R. § 404.346.

    However, a deemed valid marriage is created only if the parties to the marriage were living in the same household when the insured died. 20 C.F.R. § 404.346.

    1. Further Information is Needed to Determine Whether Sandra's Marriage to NH Was Valid Under Virginia Law Because NH died a Virginia domiciliary, Sandra's marital status must be evaluated under Virginia law. Under the laws of Virginia, Sandra's marriage to NH was not valid because a marriage entered into prior to the dissolution of an earlier marriage of one of the parties is prohibited and considered void. Va. Code Ann. §§ 20-38.1(a)(1); 20-45.1(a). However, in Virginia, where two marriages of the same person are shown, the second marriage is presumed to be valid, and such presumption is stronger and is accorded greater weight because it is presumed that the prior marriage was terminated by death or divorce. Parker v. American Lumbar Corp., 56 S.E.2d 214, 216 (Va. 1969). The presumption is strong but rebuttable. Hewitt v.Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 490 F.Supp. 1358, 1362 (E.D.Va. 1980). The party challenging the second union is required to "introduce such evidence as, in the absence of all counter testimony, will afford reasonable grounds for presuming that the former marriage was not dissolved." Id. (citations omitted). It is not incumbent upon the party seeking to overcome the presumption of the validity of the last marriage to document the absence of a divorce in every jurisdiction where one could have been obtained. Id. at 1364. "The Virginia litigant seeking to negate the existence of a divorce generally does have a burden, however, of showing that no divorce was entered in jurisdictions where the parties resided or where on any reasonable basis a decree might have been obtained." Id. At 1364.

      Based upon these principles, we believe that further development of the record is necessary. We have documentary proof that no divorce between Carolyn and NH occurred in Virginia from 1960 through August 2004. However, a search of Connecticut divorce records should be obtained since Carolyn and NH lived in Connecticut after they were married and Carolyn eventually resumed living in Connecticut. In the event that no divorce records are found in Connecticut, we believe that Carolyn can overcome the presumption that Sandra's marriage to NH is valid and, therefore, Carolyn would qualify as NH's legal surviving spouse.

      The Program Operations Manual System (POMS) also supports further development of this case to determine whether NH's prior marriage was terminated before applying the validity of the last marriage presumption.

      POMS GN ATL00305.0305 Presumption Validity of Last Marriage (PVLM) provides that, in order to determine whether the prior marriage terminated or continued, the whereabouts of the parties to a prior marriage must be traced from the time of separation to the date of the insured's death.

      Thus, a presumption that the prior marriage terminated and the current marriage is valid is applied "[o]nly if the whereabouts of the parties cannot be traced for the entire period in question, thus, making it impossible for all divorce records to be searched." POMS GN ATL00305.0305. See also POMS GN 00305.040 Development - Presumption of Validity of Last Marriage (stating that if the information obtained covers all of the involved parties' places of residence from the date of separation until death and the evidence shows the marriage did not terminate, presumption of validity of last marriage cannot be applied).

      The POMS also directs that certain evidence is required where two persons claim to be a worker's surviving spouse, as is the case here. See POMS GN 00305.050. Evidence required from both the previous spouse and the latest spouse includes, in part, "written confirmation of the spouse's statement from persons likely to know the facts, including: the places the worker lived, and when, from the date of the marriage to the claimant until the date of death; any information they have about the possible termination of the marriage; and the basis of their knowledge of the facts." POMS GN 00305.050(1)(c), (2)(c).

      In this case, we have statements only from the interested parties, Carolyn and Sandra. Accordingly, if necessary, evidence from other individuals may assist SSA in obtaining evidence concerning the dissolution of Carolyn's marriage to NH.

    2. A Virginia Court Would Likely Find that Sandra Could Not Inherit a Widow's Share of NH's Personal Property Sandra would be entitled to widow's benefits upon a finding that Virginia courts would determine that she could inherit a widow's share of NH's personal property if he were to die without leaving a will. 20 C.F.R. § 404.345. Under Virginia law, a surviving spouse is entitled to a share of the spouse's personal property if the deceased spouse dies without leaving a will. Va. Code Ann. § 64.111. Virginia does not statutorily define "surviving spouse" nor is that term defined in Virginia's case law.

      Nevertheless, we believe that Virginia would probably decline to find that Sandra is the "surviving spouse" for purposes of inheriting NH's personal property if it is proven that she was not validly married to him at the time of his death.

    3. A "Deemed Valid Marriage" Does Not Exist Between Sandra and NH In this case, Sandra cannot establish all of the criteria necessary to qualify for benefits under the deemed valid marriage provision of the Act.

    Although Sandra participated in a ceremonial marriage with NH in good faith, and was unaware that he was previously married, she was not living in the same household with him when he died. Sandra and NH separated in 1994 and lived in different cities until his death ten years later. See POMS RS 00210.035 (providing that living in same household (LISH) requirement cannot be established where parties were apart due to incompatibility, ill treatment or other domestic difficulty). Thus, the Commissioner would not deem their marriage valid at the time of NH's death in January 2004.

    Furthermore, a deemed marriage between Sandra and NH cannot be established based upon Virginia law. Virginia recognizes that the belief of the parties to a lawful marriage can validate certain defects in the marriage. Va. Code Ann. § 20-31. However, this exception applies only when the person solemnizing the marriage lacked the legal authority to do so or when the marriage license is defective or absent. Va. Code Ann. § 20-31.

    We have found no authority in Virginia which otherwise recognizes the putative spouse doctrine, which enables a second spouse to enjoy many of the rights of an actual spouse when he or she entered into a good faith ceremonial marriage even though the marriage was not valid. See, e.g., Williams v. Williams, 97 P.3d 1124, 1128 (Nev. 2004) (explaining the putative spouse doctrine).

    Therefore, Sandra could not show that she was legally married to NH or his putative spouse.

  4. CONCLUSION

    For the reasons discussed above, we believe that complete development regarding whether the marriage between NH and Carolyn terminated or continued is necessary. The answer to that issue dictates whether NH's subsequent marriage to Sandra was valid and whether Sandra may receive widow's benefits based upon her relationship to NH.

    We hope that the above information has sufficiently answered your inquiry. We would be happy to revisit this matter once complete development has concluded.

Donna L. C~
Regional Chief Counsel

By:__________________________
Maija P~
Assistant Regional Counsel


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1505105052
PR 05105.052 - Virginia - 06/25/2008
Batch run: 01/27/2009
Rev:06/25/2008