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). 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.
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).
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.