TN 71 (08-23)

GN 00305.140 Proof of Marriage Termination - General

A. Policy-- proof of marriage termination - general

The following policy applies to proof of marriage termination.

1. When Proof is Required

Obtain proof of death, divorce or annulment when:

  1. a. 

    required in accordance with entitlement (RS 00202.000 - RS 00210.000); or

  2. b. 

    there is reason to doubt the claimant's allegation that a marriage terminated, or to suspect the termination occurred at a different date than alleged, and the difference is material; or

  3. c. 

    more than one person is claiming benefits as the legal spouse (see GN 00305.050).

2. When Allegation is Acceptable

a. General

Unless proof is required by GN 00305.140A.1., accept the allegation that a marriage terminated by death, divorce, or annulment when at least the year of termination and the State of termination are given.

b. Incomplete Allegation

If . . .

Then . . .

only an approximate year of termination is given and the date is immaterial to the claimant's entitlement

Accept the allegation that the prior marriage terminated if proof is not otherwise required as stated in GN 00305.140A.1. and the claimant can give a reasonable basis for their allegation.

the State of divorce is unknown

See GN 00305.145B.4.

the claimant is uncertain how the previous marriage ended

Get proof that the marriage terminated.

the date of termination is material

Get proof that the marriage terminated.

termination of marriage is also a terminating event for benefits

Stop payment based on the beneficiary's report.

3. Uncertain Marital Status

a. Worker's Prior Marital Status Unknown

If the claimant does not know whether the worker was previously married and there is no indication that they were, assume there were no prior marriage.

b. Termination of Worker's Prior Marriage Uncertain

When the worker has a prior marriage but the claimant does not know whether it was terminated, ask them to get information from other sources such as friends and relatives. It is the claimant's responsibility to provide the evidence necessary to establish the claim.

c. Claimant Uncertain Whether Marriage to Worker Terminated

If the claimant alleges a divorce from the worker but does not have proof of that divorce, make reasonable attempts to obtain the proof. If the claimant:

  • meets all factors of entitlement (i.e., they can be entitled with or without proof of the divorce) and

  • no record of an alleged divorce can be found; and

  • the divorce is actually immaterial to entitlement (e.g., no other beneficiaries would be affected), entitle the claimant as the widow(er) or mother/father. This avenue is the least advantageous. However, it will help to alleviate some unnecessary and lengthy development. Use judgment in determining when developmental efforts have become futile and when to curtail development. Document the file as to what is being done and what development was undertaken.

B. Procedure — proof of marriage termination -- general

1. Preferred Evidence of Divorce and Annulment

  1. a. 

    Get a certified copy of the divorce or annulment decree, including foreign proofs.

  2. b. 

    Accept an interlocutory divorce decree (see GN 00305.160C.2.) as final if it was issued in a State where such a decree becomes final after a specified period of time, unless there is an indication in file that the decree did not become final. In those States where specific action is required to make a divorce final after an interlocutory decree has been issued, request proof of final divorce.

2. Secondary Evidence of Divorce and Annulment

  1. a. 

    If preferred proof of divorce or annulment is not available, obtain any available secondary evidence. Examples are:

    • a statement from the other spouse of the prior marriage;

    • statements from friends or relatives of both parties to the prior marriage;

    • letters referring to the termination event;

    • newspaper accounts; or

    • other evidence of probative value.

  2. b. 

    Document the reason preferred proof is not furnished.

  3. c. 

    Get a statement from the claimant describing the proceedings.

C. Reference -- proof of marriage termination -- general

See GN 00308.001 ff. for obtaining proof of domestic divorce from State or local custodians of divorce records.

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GN 00305.140 - Proof of Marriage Termination - General - 08/22/2023
Batch run: 08/22/2023