BASIC (10-04)

PR 05405.009 Delaware

A. PR 04-284 Validity of Marital Relationship in South Vietnam Number Holder

DATE: July 15, 2004

1. SYLLABUS

The claimant's Vietnam marriage to the NH would not be considered valid under Delaware law. The fact that a union is a result of a parent-arranged marriage does not appear to negate the requirement under South Vietnam law that a marriage had to be registered.

NOTE: In the third sentence under "Summary, "in 1975" should be "before 1975," per POMS GN 00307.930 (TN 31, 08/05).

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED

This is in response to your February 24, 2004, request for an opinion on whether T1~ ("the Number Holder") and T2~ ("the claimant") had a valid marriage under the law of the State of Delaware, given that she and the Number Holder were married through a parent-arranged marriage in South Vietnam on May XX, 19XX.

SUMMARY

We reviewed the information you provided and researched the relevant provisions of Delaware law as it pertains to the validity of a foreign marriage. Delaware law follows the general principle that a marriage valid under the law of the place where it was contracted ("lex loci contractus") is valid in Delaware. As noted in Program Operations Manual System GN 00307.930 (TN 31, 08/05), only civil marriages were valid in South Vietnam in 1975, and marriages were usually performed by civil authorities and entered into their records at that time. Given the claimant's representation of the nature of parent-arranged marriages in South Vietnam, we contacted the Law Library of the Library of Congress (Law Library) to obtain information on parent-arranged marriages in South Vietnam in 1964. Based on its review of its archived reports, the Law Library advised that the fact that a union is the result of a parent-arranged marriage did not appear to be relevant to the requirement that a marriage had to be registered under South Vietnam law. Inasmuch as the claimant averred that there was no proof of her marriage to the Number Holder, including no documentation of her parent-arranged marriage, this suggests her parent-arranged marriage was never registered in South Vietnam. As such, the claimant does not appear to have a valid legal marriage under South Vietnam law. Accordingly, the claimant's parent-arranged marriage to the Number Holder would not be considered valid under Delaware law.

BACKGROUND

The claimant applied for widow's insurance benefits on January XX, 20XX. As we understand the facts, the claimant reported that she and the Number Holder were married on May XX, 19XX, in South Vietnam. The claimant and the Number Holder did not have a ceremonial marriage and there was no formal marriage ceremony. The claimant said she and the Number Holder had a parent-arranged marriage. The claimant stated the Number Holder's father went to her family and arranged for the marriage. In May 1964, the claimant and her family went to the Number Holder's house. They celebrated the marriage with a party for all of their relatives and friends. The party included the claimant's sister, brother-in-law and nephew, all of who currently reside in Delaware. After that, the claimant reported that she went to live with the Number Holder and his family in his family's home. When asked to supply proof of her marriage, the claimant reported there were no newspaper accounts of the wedding and no photos were taken of the marriage. Claimant averred there was no proof of her marriage to the Number Holder. The claimant stated there was never any recordation or documentation of a parent-arranged marriage in South Vietnam. Outside of the circumstances surrounding the claimant's parent-arranged marriage, no secondary proof of the marriage was developed. The marriage ended when the Number Holder, a Delaware domiciliary, died on January 23, 2004.

DISCUSSION

Pursuant to section 216(h)(1)(A)(i) of the Social Security Act (Act), an applicant is considered the widow of an insured individual if the courts of the insured individual's domicile at the time of his death would find that the applicant and the insured individual were validly married when he died. In this case, the Number Holder died a Delaware domiciliary. Thus, the issue of whether the claimant was validly married to the Number Holder must be evaluated under Delaware law.

Delaware law follows the general principle that a marriage valid under lex loci contractus is valid in Delaware. Anonymous v. Anonymous, 85 A.2d 706, 715 (Del. Super. Ct. 1951). Inasmuch as Delaware law follows the usually accepted principle that the law governing the validity of the marriage is generally that of the place where the marriage was contracted, the validity of the marriage between the claimant and the Number Holder is dependent on whether their parent-arranged marriage would be considered valid under South Vietnam law. We contacted the Law Library to obtain information on parent-arranged marriages in South Vietnam. W~, the Director of Legal Research of the Law Library, initially informed us that the Law Library was unable to provide the Agency with assistance in this matter because it did not have an attorney on staff with a specialized knowledge of South Vietnam law. However, W~ told us that the Law Library was in the process of developing a list of qualified foreign attorneys that it could contact in the future, on an as-needed basis, to respond to inquiries like ours. Pursuant to our request, W~ ordered a review of the Law Library's existing reports to see whether there was anything in its archives that may be of assistance to us in this case.

Based on its review of the reports written by the recently-retired Vietnamese legal specialist, the Law Library told us that South Vietnam required the registration of a union and issuance of a marriage certificate or, in the alternative, the union's notation in the Civil Status Registry as legal proof of a valid marriage. The Law Library also advised us that under the laws of registration of civil status, a court of the first-instance could issue a certificate recognizing an unregistered union as a marriage and a copy of such a certificate would be considered a valid proof of marriage. The Law Library reported that a common-law marriage was not recognized as a valid marriage under South Vietnam law, no matter how long the union lasted or how many children may have resulted. Thus, given its review of South Vietnam law, the Law Library informed us that the fact that a union is the result of a parent-arranged marriage did not appear to be relevant to the requirement that a marriage had to be registered. Here, the claimant averred that there was no proof of her marriage to the Number Holder, including no documentation of her parent-arranged marriage, because there was never any documentation of parent-arranged marriages in South Vietnam. Her statement suggests her parent-arranged marriage to the Number Holder was never registered in South Vietnam. As such, the claimant does not appear to have a valid legal marriage under South Vietnam law. Accordingly, the claimant's parent-arranged marriage to the Number Holder would not be considered valid under Delaware law under the principle of lex loci contractus.

CONCLUSION

For the reasons stated above, the claimant's foreign marriage to the Number Holder would not be considered valid under Delaware law because the fact that a union is a result of a parent-arranged marriage does not appear to negate the requirement under South Vietnam law that a marriage had to be registered.

Donna L. C~
Regional Chief Counsel

By:_________________________
Lori K~
Assistant Regional Counsel


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http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1505405009
PR 05405.009 - Delaware - 05/25/2018
Batch run: 05/25/2018
Rev:05/25/2018