TN 4 (02-14)

PR 06310.011 Florida

A. PR 14-034 Effect of Guardianship Order Depriving Claimant of Right to Enter into Contractual Relationships on Claimant’s Eligibility for Disabled Adult Child Benefits – Florida Claimant – Nicholas Number Holder – Nickey

DATE: December 19, 2013

1. SYLLABUS

In September, 2010, a disability court in Jefferson County, Kentucky, issued an “Order of Appointment of Guardian,” which deprived the claimant of the right to enter into contractual relationships.  Kentucky case law treats a marriage as a civil status created by a contract.  Because the September 2010 judgment and order creates a presumption of mental incapacity to enter into contractual relationships at any point subsequent to September 2010, we conclude Florida would consider this judgment and order to create a presumption of permanent mental incapacity with respect to the claimant’s ability to enter into contractual relationships since September 2010 that would render the claimant’s 2013 marriage void.  Consequently, such a marriage would not affect the claimant’s benefits or SSI benefits for the other party to the void marriage

2. OPINION

QUESTION

When determining the eligibility for disabled adult child (DAC) benefits on the number holder’s earnings record for a claimant who purportedly married in Florida, you asked whether Florida would recognize a Kentucky court’s guardian-appointment order depriving a claimant of the right to enter into a contractual relationship, how such an order would affect the purported marriage, and whether the purported marriage would affect the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility of the claimant or his wife.

OPINION

We conclude a Florida court would recognize the Kentucky court order and hold any marriage entered into by the claimant after the court order to be void.  Consequently, the purported marriage here would not affect the claimant’s SSI or his purported wife’s SSI.

BACKGROUND

Nicholas (Claimant), born in 1990, receives DAC benefits on the earnings record of his father, Nickey, the number holder, who is currently receiving disability insurance benefits. Claimant also receives SSI.  On September 28, 2010, a county court in Jefferson County, Kentucky, Guardianship/Disability Division, issued a "Disability Judgment," finding Claimant was partially disabled in managing his personal affairs and wholly disabled in managing his financial resources, and determined a conservator shall be appointed.  On September 29, 2010, a disability court in Jefferson County, Kentucky, issued an "Order of Appointment of Guardian" appointing the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) as the limited guardian of Claimant.  The order deprived Claimant of the rights to dispose of property, execute instruments, enter into contractual relationships, determine living arrangements, and consent to medical procedures.  Agency records show Claimant lived in Kentucky at the time of the disability judgment and order.

According to agency records, Claimant moved to Florida in December 2012. On January 17, 2013, Claimant participated in a marriage ceremony in Florida with Carmen in Florida, who also receives SSI.

DISCUSSION

A claimant over age eighteen may be eligible for DAC benefits on the earnings record of an individual entitled to disability insurance benefits if the claimant is (1) the insured individual’s “child,” (2) unmarried at the time of the application, and (3) under a disability that began before he attained the age of twenty-two. See Act § 202(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a).1

A beneficiary’s entitlement to DAC benefits generally ends in the month in which he or she marries. See Act § 202(d)(1)(D); 20 C.F.R. § 404.352(b)(4); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00203.035A.3.2

However, “parties to a void marriage are considered never to have been validly married.” POMS GN 00305.125A.  By contrast, a voidable marriage, that is, a marriage that is defective and can be annulled, is still considered valid unless and until it is annulled. See POMS GN 00305.130A.  An individual's marital status might also affect his or her eligibility for SSI or the amount of SSI he or she receives. See Act § 1611(a)-(c); 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.202, 416.410, 416.412, 416.920, 416.432, 416.1160, 416.1802, 416.1802.  Generally, SSA looks to the laws of the State where the parties married to determine the validity of a marriage. See Act § 216(h)(1)(A)(i); 1614(d); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.345, 416.1806(a)(1); POMS GN 00305.005B.1.  Claimant and Carmen participated in a marriage ceremony in Florida.

A Florida court generally must give full faith and credit to an order or judgment issued by another state court. See U.S. Const. art. IV, § 1; 28 U.S.C. § 1738; Baker by Thomas v. General Motors Corp., 522 U.S. 222, 231-32 (1998).  A Florida court will give a sister state court’s prior judgment the same effect the sister state would give it. See Atwell v. Atwell, 730 So. 2d 858, 860 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1999) (citing Fehlhaber v. Fehlhaber, 669 F.2d 990, 994 (5th Cir. 1982)).3

In Kentucky, a party properly adjudged to be insane remains insane until judgment of restoration of sanity is entered. See Story v. Story, 200 S.W.2d 146, 148 (Ky. 1947).  An adjudication of mental incapacity is prima facie evidence that an individual remained mentally incapacitated subsequent to the adjudication. See Littreal v. Littreal, 253 S.W.2d 247, 249 (Ky. 1952). However, the strength of the presumption of incapacity lessens as the adjudication becomes more remote.  See Sumpter v. Flanery, 357 S.W.2d 324, 325 (Ky. 1962)(affirming grantor had sufficient mental capacity to execute deed in 1929, based on evidence rebutting presumption raised by 1924 adjudication of mental incapacity).  Additionally, since 1982, Kentucky has recognized varying levels of disability and that individuals who are only partially disabled may retain some civil and legal rights, and thus has expressly observed guardianship should be ordered only “to the extent necessitated by each person’s actual mental and adaptive limitations.” Ky, Rev. Stat. Ann. § 387.500 (West 2013). 

Nevertheless, the September 2010 guardianship appointment order specifically deprived Claimant of his right to enter into contractual relationships. Kentucky case law treats a marriage as a civil status created by a contract.  See Taulbee v. Cooper, No. 2012-CA-000602-MR, 2013 WL 1844706, at *3 (Ky. Ct. App. 2013); Chapman v. Chapman, 498 S.W.2d 134, 135 (Ky. 1973) (noting marriage, although not a contract in the usual sense, is a status or relation created by contract); Elkhorn Coal Corp. v. Tackett, 49 S.W.2d 571, 573 (Ky. App. 1932) (noting marriage relation is one founded in contract or consent). Kentucky courts, however, have acknowledged that marriage contracts, in contrast with ordinary contracts, depend more on sentiment and attachment than reason and sound judgment. See Griffin v. Bedow, 268 S.W.2d 403, 405 (Ky. 1954).  Consequently, in evaluating the validity of a marriage, Kentucky courts have considered whether the individuals entering into the marriage have the capacity specifically to understand the nature of the marriage contract, as opposed to looking for mental limitations that “amount to an entire want of reason.”  Id. (judging capacity to marry based on mental capacity to understand the nature of the marriage contract and the duties and responsibilities it creates); see Cook v. Cook, 243 S.W.2d 900, 901-02 (Ky. 1951).

In light of this case law, we conclude the September 2010 judgment and order finding Claimant partially disabled in managing his personal affairs and depriving him of his right to enter into contractual relationships would be considered prima facie evidence that Claimant has been and continues to be mentally incapacitated and unable to enter into a marriage or any other contractual relationship since September 2010.

In Florida, a marriage with someone who is mentally incapacitated at the time of the union may be void.  See Savage v. Olson, 9 So.2d 363, 365 (Fla. 1942) (treating as void ab initio marriage with individual who was mentally incapacitated at the time of union); Kuehmsted v. Turnwall, 138 So. 775, 777 (Fla. 1932) (noting marriage with “an idiot or lunatic” is “absolutely void” and subject to attack even after the death of either or both parties to the marriage, as opposed to a voidable marriage, which is good ab initio upon the death of either party). However, a marriage with someone who was only temporarily mentally incapacitated has been characterized as voidable, rather than void.  See Mahan v. Mahan, 88 So.2d 545, 547 (Fla. 1956) (finding marriage voidable where one of the participants is so intoxicated as to be mentally incapacitated); Prine v. Prine, 18 So. 781, 785 (Fla. 1895) (noting marriage entered into at the time of temporary mental incapacity may be validated afterward).  Although P~ and M~ do not further explain the distinction between temporary mental incapacity and permanent mental incapacity for the purposes of evaluating the validity of a marriage, P~ and M~ both addressed marriages in which at least one party was incapacitated due to intoxication at the time of the union. 

Because the September 2010 judgment and order creates a presumption of mental incapacity to enter into contractual relationships at any point subsequent to September 2010, we believe Florida would consider this judgment and order to create a presumption of permanent mental incapacity to enter into a contractual relationship since September 2010. Accordingly, we believe Florida would find Claimant’s marriage to be void, absent any evidence to rebut the presumption of permanent mental incapacity.

CONCLUSION

Based on the evidence provided, we conclude Florida would consider the judgment and order to create a presumption of permanent mental incapacity with respect to Claimant’s ability to enter into contractual relationships since September 2010 that would render Claimant’s 2013 marriage void. Consequently, such a marriage would not affect Claimant’s benefits or Carmen’s SSI. 

Mary Ann Sloan

Regional Chief Counsel

By:    ___________________

Natalie Liem

Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

All references to 20 C.F.R. are to the 2013 version unless otherwise noted.

[2]

A beneficiary’s entitlement to DAC benefits will not end if the beneficiary marries another Social Security beneficiary whose entitlement is not based on being a child under age eighteen or as a full-time student. See Act § 202(d)(5); 20 C.F.R. § 404.352(b)(4); POMS RS 00203.035A.3.a. The agency has determined Claimant’s purported marriage to Carmen would not meet this exception, because Carmen is receiving SSI only and is not a Social Security beneficiary according to POMS RS 00203.035A.3.a.

[3]

Although a foreign judgment may be challenged based on the foreign court lacking jurisdiction, see In re Estate of O’K~, 833 So. 2d 157, 160 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2002), an examination of jurisdictional defects will not be made if such issues could have been litigated in the original proceeding. See A~, 730 So.2d at 860.  Regardless, there is no evidence to indicate Kentucky lacked jurisdiction to issue the judgment and order concerning Claimant’s disability and guardianship appointment in September 2010.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1506310011
PR 06310.011 - Florida - 02/12/2014
Batch run: 02/12/2014
Rev:02/12/2014