TN 2 (08-07)
PR 08605.049 Utah
A. PR 07-141 Legal Custody Status in the State of Utah
DATE: April 27, 2007
Under Utah adoption statutes, a licensed adoption agency automatically acquires legal custody of a child who is the subject of a properly worded and executed statement of relinquishment. The agency is not required to obtain court custody documents to file an application for an SSN. Always ensure that the adoption agency is licensed by the State of Utah. If you are unable to determine whether the statutory requirements in a particular case are met, a request for a legal opinion should be submitted.
You have requested an opinion regarding the documentation required to process applications for Social Security Numbers for minor children in the state of Utah who have been relinquished to the custody of licensed adoption agencies. You have not presented any specific factual situation. Rather, you have asked whether, in general, (1) a signed statement relinquishing a child to a child placement agency establishes that the agency has legal custody of the child; (2) whether the signed relinquishment statement would be considered a court custody document; and (3) whether legal guardianship documents still would be required for enumeration purposes.
Under Utah adoption statutes, a statement relinquishing a child to a licensed adoption agency, obtained in accordance with the applicable state statutory and regulatory provisions, vests that agency with legal custody of the child. The relinquishment statement is not a "court custody document" as set forth in the POMS; however, in Utah, a licensed adoption agency does not have to obtain a court custody document to acquire legal custody if it follows the state statutory and regulatory requirements for obtaining a statement of relinquishment. Because Utah statutes confer legal custody of a child on a licensed adoption agency in the event of properly executed statement of relinquishment, the agency would not need to present documentation of legal guardianship in order for SSA to process the SS-5 application._1
A state licensed agency, such as a private adoption agency, may apply for an SSN on behalf of another individual, so long as it can establish relationship to and custody/responsibility for the child. By operation of the Utah adoption statute, a licensed adoption agency assumes custody of a child upon the signing of relinquishment by the proper person or persons. Utah Code Ann. § 78-30-4.14 (2006)_2 defines who may consent to adoption or relinquishment for adoption, and § 78-30-4.16 defines persons who may take consents and relinquishments. "Once a child has been placed with, relinquished to, or ordered into the custody of a licensed child-placing agency for purposes of adoption, the agency shall have custody and control of the child and is responsible for his care, maintenance, and support." Id. § 78-30-4.22 (2). The state of Utah defines "custody" as the "right to or responsibility for a child's care and control, carrying with it the duty of providing food, shelter, medical care, education and discipline." http://www.utcourts.gov/resources/glossary.htm.
While POMS RM 00202.005.D.5 presumes that "court custody documents" are required to establish legal custody in all states, we believe that a properly worded and signed statement of relinquishment is sufficient to establish legal custody in the state of Utah. In such instances, we do not believe a licensed adoption agency would need to present documentation of legal guardianship in order for SSA to process the SS-5 application.
We believe that, by operation of the Utah adoption statute, a licensed adoption agency automatically acquires legal custody of a child who is the subject of a properly worded and executed statement of relinquishment, and the agency is not required to obtain court custody documents to file an application for an SSN.
Very truly yours,
Deana R. E~-L~
Regional Chief Counsel
Teresa H. A~
Assistant Regional Counsel
_1 This opinion is based solely on your generally inquiry. In the event a specific fact situation arises, we may reach a different conclusion.
_2 All references are to the 2006 edition.