TN 1 (02-06)
PR 07205.039 Ohio
A. PR 04-174 Support of Beneficiary's Legal Child - Ohio - Esther M. Z~, A/N ~
DATE: January 11, 1991
Statutes in the State of Ohio demonstrate an intent to treat children as dependent beyond age 18 and at least until age 22, as long as such children are attending school full time.
This is in response to your recent memorandum inquiring whether a child of a beneficiary is considered legally dependent under Ohio law so that she can receive a portion of her mother's social security benefits to meet her ordinary and necessary living expenses.
The relevant facts are as follows. Susan A. Z~, the daughter of the wage earner, was born on June 20, 1971. Susan lives in the wage earner's home and attends nursing school full-time. She earns $129 per week through a work-study program.
Esther Z~, the wage earner, is presently institutionalized in a nursing home, which serves as her representative payee. Susan's father died many years ago. A portion of Esther's monthly social security benefits is used for her personal needs and the remainder is conserved for her. Esther's assets are the home (in which Susan lives) and a checking account with a balance as of April of 1989 of $889.25. Susan was previously receiving a maintenance need allowance of $139 per month from the Ohio Department of Welfare, but this allowance has been discontinued because of an Ohio Department of Welfare rule that a child living alone is not eligible to receive such an allowance.
The question presented is whether Susan qualifies as Esther's dependent child. If so, Susan may use the unused portion of Esther's benefits for her maintenance and allowance.
According to POMS GN 00602.020, which is based upon 20 C.F.R. § 404.2040(c), "if the current maintenance needs of the beneficiary are met, the payee may use part of the benefits for the support of the beneficiary's legally dependent . . . child. . . ." Under this same POMS provision, legal dependency is determined by state law, in this case Ohio law. It appears from the facts provided that the beneficiary's current maintenance needs are being met. Thus, if Susan qualifies as the legally dependent child of Esther under Ohio law, then a portion of Esther's monthly benefits may be used for Susan's support. Cf. Casimir Sacko, SSN~, RA V (Feldman) to ARC Programs SSA V (Parker), 4/21/87.
Generally, in Ohio there is no parental duty to support a child beyond the age of majority. See Thiessen v. Moore, 105 Ohio St. 401, 137 N.E. 906 (1922); see also Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2111.08 (Baldwin 1988), 2919.21, and 3103.03 (Baldwin 1989). The age of majority in Ohio is 18. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3109.01 (Baldwin 1989). Susan Z~ reached the age of majority when she turned eighteen in June 1989. Accordingly, it initially appears that Esther is under no obligation to support Susan.
However, dependency is not always based upon a legal obligation to support. Becker v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, 137 Ohio St. 139, 28 N.E.2d 361, 364 (1940); Wheeling Steel Corp. v. Morates, 202 N.E.2d 317, 318-19 (1963). Indeed, a legal obligation to support "is not even greatly helpful . . . in establishing dependency." Wheeling Steel, supra, at 318-19. Instead, dependency is "determined in accordance with the facts in each particular case." Becker, supra, at 364.
Certain Ohio statutes demonstrate how the legislature has construed the definitional parameters of dependency in specific contexts. For example, three parallel statutes dealing with survivor's benefits for various state employees discuss who may qualify as dependents of such employees. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 145.45 (state government employees), 3307.49 (state teachers), and 3309.45 (public school employees) (Baldwin 1989). Each of these statutes contains a provision which states that a [d]ependent child shall be any unmarried child of the deceased member under age eighteen, or under age twenty-two if the child is attending an institution of learning or training pursuant to a program designed to complete in each school year the equivalent of at least two-thirds of the full-time curriculum requirements of such institution. . . . If not domiciled in the deceased member's household at time of death, to qualify as a dependent child the deceased member must have contributed to one-half or more of the child's support during the twelve-month period prior to death. . . .
See, e.g., Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 145.45(B)(2)(b). Even though Susan is already over 18, under these criteria she qualifies as Esther's dependent child, since she is unmarried, lives in her mother's home, and is attending nursing school full-time.
The Ohio worker's compensation statute, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4123.59 (Baldwin 1989), also tends to confirm that Susan is Esther's dependent child. The relevant portion of this statute states that a child meeting the following criteria is presumed "wholly dependent":
A child under the age of eighteen years, or twenty-five years if pursuing a full-time educational program while enrolled in an accredited educational institution and program, . . . upon only the one parent who is contributing more than one-half of the support for such child and with whom he is living . . . , or for whose maintenance such parent was legally liable. . . .
Id., § 4123.59(D)(2). Here again, Susan is under the required age, since she is attending nursing school full-time. It is at least arguable, too, that Esther is "the one parent who is contributing more than one-half of the support for" Susan and with whom Susan is living, since Susan lives in Esther's house, and her father died a number of years ago. At any rate, the above-stated criteria only need to be met if a child is to be presumed to be wholly dependent. "In all other cases," the statute explains, "the question of dependency, in whole or in part, shall be determined in accordance with the facts in each particular case. . . ." Id.
The Ohio child support statute provides further support for the conclusion that Susan Z~ qualifies as legally dependent upon Esther. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3109.05 (Baldwin 1989). This statute contemplates support of dependent children, and does not limit such support to minor children. Ruling on a similar statute, the Washington Supreme Court specifically held that children over the age of majority could still qualify as dependent children. Childers v. Childers, 89 Wash. 2d 592, 575 P.2d 201 (1978). The same possibility has been recognized in Ohio based on the Ohio child support statute, "at least for the purpose of affording a college education for 4 years." 48 Ohio Jur. 3d, Family Law § 1026 (1983 and Supp. 1989).
Accordingly, it appears that Ohio statutes demonstrate an intent to treat children as dependent beyond age 18 and at least until age 22, as long as such children are attending school full-time. Based on the foregoing analysis of Ohio law, we conclude that Susan Z~ qualifies as the legally dependent child of Esther Z~. Accordingly, under 20 C.F.R. § 404.2040(c) and POMS GN 00602.020, a portion of Esther's monthly benefits may be used for Susan's maintenance and support. Such support should continue as long as the benefits are not needed for Esther Z~, and as long as Susan is under age 22 and is attending school full-time.
Donna M. W~
Chief Counsel, Region V
John E. B~
Assistant Regional Counsel