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.
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
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
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.
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).
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)
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)).
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.
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
Assistant Regional Counsel