TN 11 (07-16)

PR 05830.262 Netherlands

A. PR 16- 097 W~’s Entitlement to Spouse’s Insurance Benefits Based on His Relationship with D~—Applying Netherlands Law

Date: March 15, 2016

1. Syllabus

The number holder (NH) and claimant entered into a registered partnership in the Netherlands in April 1998. The claimant filed for spouse’s benefits on the NH’s record in January 2015. Since the NH was domiciled in the Netherlands at the time of application, we apply the law of the District of Columbia. Under the law of the District of Columbia, the validity of a marriage is determined by the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage was entered into. We therefore consider whether the claimant and the NH were validly married under Netherlands law. Because the NH and claimant entered into a registered partnership and there is no allegation or evidence that the couple followed the necessary procedures to become married, the claimant would not be considered validly married to the NH under Netherlands law. However, marriages and registered partnerships convey essentially identical rights, including the same status with respect to the inheritance of intestate personal property. So, while the claimant is not validly married to the NH, he is deemed the NH’s spouse and qualifies as the NH’s spouse for purposes of determining his entitlement to spouse’s benefits.

2. Opinion

  1. Issue

    W~ (claimant) applied for spouse’s insurance benefits on the earnings record of D~, the insured number holder (NH). The claimant entered into a registered partnership with the NH in the Netherlands. Subsequently, the claimant applied for spouse’s insurance benefits on the NH’s record. Is the claimant the NH’s spouse for purposes of determining his entitlement to spouse’s insurance benefits under title II of the Social Security Act?

  2. Short Answer

    Yes. Although the claimant’s relationship to the NH would not be recognized as a valid marriage under Netherlands law, that law gives him the same status as a legally married spouse of the NH for purposes of intestate inheritance.

  3. Factual Background

    The claimant, a male, alleges he entered into a registered partnership with the NH, a male, on April XX, 1998. In connection with his claim for benefits, the claimant submitted a copy of the Certificate of Registered Partnership. The Certificate is dated April XX, 1998, and was issued by the Registrar of the Civil Registry of A~, the Netherlands. The Certificate shows the names of the registered partners as D~ and W~. The claimant applied for spouse’s insurance benefits on the NH’s record on January XX, 2015.

  4. Discussion1

    To be entitled to spouse’s insurance benefits under title II of the Social Security Act (Act), a claimant must show, among other things, that they are the “spouse” of an individual entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits. See Act § 202(b)-(c), 216(a)(1). As pertinent here, the Act provides two methods for a claimant to show they are the spouse of an insured individual.

    First, a claimant is the spouse of an insured individual if the claimant was validly married to the insured individual at the time the claimant applied for benefits. See Act § 216(h)(1)(A)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.345. Second, even if the claimant was not validly married to the insured individual at the time the claimant applied for benefits, the claimant will be deemed to be the insured individual’s spouse if the claimant would have the same status as a spouse of the insured individual with respect to the inheritance of the insured individual’s intestate personal property. See Act § 216(h)(1)(A)(ii); 20 C.F.R. § 404.345.

    In determining whether a claimant qualifies as a spouse of an insured individual, the agency applies the law of the State where the insured individual was domiciled at the time the claimant applied for benefits. See Act § 216(h)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.345. If the insured individual was not domiciled in any State at that time, the agency applies the law of the District of Columbia. See Act § 216(h)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.345.

    The claimant bears the burden of proving they are entitled to benefits as the insured individual’s spouse. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.345, 404.704, 404.723, 404.725.

    1. The Claimant Is Not Validly Married to the NH under Netherlands Law.

      Under the law of the District of Columbia, the validity of a marriage is determined by the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage was entered into. See McConnell v. McConnell, 99 F. Supp. 493, 494 (D.D.C. 1951); Carr v. Varr, 82 F. Supp. 398 (D.D.C. 1949); Gerardi v. Gerardi, 69 F. Supp. 296 (D.D.C. 1946).2 Here, the claimant alleges she lived together with the NH in a “registered partnership” in the Netherlands. We therefore consider whether the claimant and the NH were validly married under Netherlands law.

      Netherlands law recognizes three types of union between two persons of the same or opposite sex: a “marriage,” a “registered partnership,” or a “cohabitation agreement.” The rules defining marriage are contained in book 1 of the Civil Code. See Bk. 1, Tit. 1.5, Law of Persons & Family Law, DUTCH CIVIL CODE (in effect on Jan. 1, 1970, as updated to Feb. 4, 2014), http://www.dutchcivillaw.com/civilcodebook01.htm, archived at http://perma.cc/F6UM-8A8V, Boek 1 [Book 1] [BURGERLUK WETBOEK] [BW] [CIVIL CODE], as amended, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0002656/Boek1/geldigheidsdatum_19-11-2015, archived at http://perma.cc/YM3P-AYPR (last visited Mar. 8, 2016). The Civil Code prescribes numerous formalities and procedures that must be observed before a certificate of marriage will be issued. See id.

      Registered partnerships are governed by title 1.5A of book 1 of the Civil Code. See supra. Like a marriage, a registered partnership comes into being only if the parties observe statutorily prescribed formalities and procedures, many of which are the same as those required for entry into a marriage. See supra. A Certificate of Registered Partnership constitutes proof of the existence of the registered partnership. Bk. 1, tit. 1.5A, art. 1.80a(8).

      A cohabitation agreement, unlike a marriage or registered partnership, is governed by general contract law. Marriage, Registered Partnerships and Cohabitation Agreements, GOVERNMENT.JL, https://www.government.nl/topics/family-law/contents/marriage-registered-partnership-and-cohabitation-agreements, archived at http://perma.cc/547B-FLZ4 (last visited Mar. 8, 2016). No legislative provisions specifically regulate cohabitation contracts. See id.

      In the claim at issue, there are no allegations or evidence that the claimant and the NH followed the necessary procedures to become married under the Civil Code. Rather, the Certificate of Registered Partnership is evidence that the parties entered into a similar but legally distinct relationship—a registered partnership. Because the claimant and the NH entered into a registered partnership, rather than a marriage, the claimant would not be considered validly married to the NH under Netherlands law. Accordingly, the claimant cannot qualify as the NH’s spouse on the basis of a valid marriage. See Act § 216(h)(1)(A)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.345.

    2. The Claimant Has the Same Status as a Spouse of the NH under Netherlands Intestacy Law.

      Even if the claimant was not validly married to NH, he will be deemed to be the NH’s spouse if, under the law applied by the courts of the District of Columbia in determining the devolution of intestate personal property, she has the “same status” as a spouse of the NH with respect to the taking of such property. See Act § 216(h)(1)(A)(ii); 20 C.F.R. § 404.345.

      Under District of Columbia law, intestate inheritance rights are determined by the law of the decedent’s domicile. Javier v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 407 F.3d 1244, 1247 (D.D.C. 2005) (citing In re Gray’s Estate, 168 F. Supp. 124 (D.D.C. 1958)). Here, the NH is domiciled in the Netherlands. Accordingly, to determine whether the claimant has the requisite status with respect to inheritance of the NH’s intestate property, we apply Netherlands law.

      As discussed above, Netherlands recognizes three kinds of relationships between people of the same or opposite sex: a marriage, a registered partnership, or a cohabitation agreement. Marriages and registered partnerships convey essentially identical rights, including the same status with respect to the inheritance of intestate personal property. Indeed, the Civil Code equates “registered partners” with “spouses” under its provisions on intestate succession. Bk. 4, Law of Succession, art. 4.8(1) DCC, http://www.dutchcivillaw.com/civilcodebook44.htm (as in effect on Feb. 4, 2014), archived at http://perma.cc/LLX7-99PN; THE CIVIL CODE OF THE NETHERLANDS, BOEK 4 BW, as amended, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0002761/Boek4/geldigheidsdatum_13-11-2015, archived at http://perma.cc/Z2ZS-QTX4 (last visited Mar. 8, 2016).3

      As discussed above, it appears clear in this case that the claimant and the NH entered into registered partnership, rather than a marriage (or cohabitation agreement). There are no allegations or evidence that the parties followed the procedures required to enter a marriage. However, the Certificate of Registered Partnership constitutes evidence that they entered into a valid, registered partnership. And, since registered partners have the same intestate property rights as married spouses, the claimant has the same status as a married spouse with respect to the inheritance of such property. Accordingly, while the claimant is not validly married to the NH, the claimant is deemed to be the NH’s spouse based on his inheritance rights under Netherlands law.

  5. Conclusion

    The claimant qualifies as the NH’s spouse for purposes of determining his entitlement to spouse’s insurance benefits. Although the claimant’s relationship with the NH would not be recognized as a valid marriage under Netherlands law, that law does give the claimant the same status as a spouse of the NH for purposes of intestate inheritance.


Footnotes:

[1]

. We note that our discussion of the law of the Netherlands is based in part on an opinion we received from the Library of Congress.

[2]

. The only exception is when the marriage is in violation of strong public policy of the District of Columbia. Hitchens v. Hitchens, 47 F. Supp. 73, 74 (D.D.C. 1942). In this case, it does not appear that recognition of a marriage between the claimant and the NH would violate a strong public policy of the District.

[3]

. Partners to a cohabitation agreement do not enjoy the same status as spouses or registered partners for purposes of intestate inheritance. Instead, such couples have inheritance rights only to the extent set forth in the cohabitation agreement. Trouwen, samenlevingscontract en geregistreerd partners chap Marriage, Cohabitation, and Registered Partnership] [, RIJKSOVERHEID, https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/trouwen-samenlevingscontract-en-geregistreerd-partnerschap/vraag-en-antwoord/samenlevingscontract-afsluiten, archived at http://perma.cc/WYC4-HLHU (last visited Mar. 8, 2016).


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1505830262
PR 05830.262 - Netherlands - 07/18/2016
Batch run: 07/18/2016
Rev:07/18/2016