TN 29 (05-01)

GN 00305.085 Putative Marriage

Citations:

Act-Sec.216(h)(1)(A) , Regulations No. 4 -- Secs.404.344; 404.345

A. Policy – general

The following policy applies to putative marriages

1. Explanation

Under the laws of some States, a party to a void marriage may acquire inheritance rights as a spouse. This relationship is called a putative marriage. The essential basis of a putative marriage is a good faith belief in the existence of a valid marriage at its inception and a continuous good faith belief (in a life case) or good faith until the worker dies (in a death case). The marriage may be invalid because of some defect of which the putative spouse was unaware, such as a prior undissolved marriage of one of the parties, or failure to meet the requirement of solemnization. State law putative marriages should be distinguished from the Federal deemed marriage provision described in GN 00305.055.

2. Surviving Spouse

In addition to meeting the relationship requirement, a claimant for widow(er)'s benefits based on a putative marriage must not be married at the time of filing unless a remarriage occurred after the claimant became age 60. Similarly, a claimant for mother's or father's benefits must be unmarried at the time the application is filed.

3. Divorced Spouse

A person who maintained a putative marriage with the worker under applicable State law and who was then divorced from the worker can be entitled to benefits as the worker's divorced spouse or surviving divorced spouse if all the other necessary requirements are met, e.g., married at least 10 years. In order to qualify as a putative (surviving) divorced spouse, the good faith belief must have lasted until a final divorce (divorce a vinculo matrimonii) was obtained. Divorced putative spouse's benefits cannot be paid based on an annulment or separation.

B. Policy - Arizona

1. Law

Effective 12/28/78, a person who maintained a good faith belief in the validity of a legally invalid marriage is accorded certain inheritance rights to property acquired during the course of the relationship and, therefore, acquires the status of putative spouse in Arizona. A putative marriage can be established only on the basis of an invalid ceremonial marriage with one very limited exception.

2. Exception

The parties secured a marriage license but never went through a marriage ceremony; the parties were:

  1. individuals unaware of Arizona laws and customs;

  2. unable to ascertain legal requirements due to an inability to read or speak English; and

  3. they had reason to believe that the license alone made them legally married.

Where all the conditions for the exception appear to be met, document the file as to the parties' language ability, length of stay in the U.S., general information on the marriage laws in their native country, as well as the statement regarding their good faith belief. Route cases involving the exception per GN 01010.815, for possible submittal to the chief counsel.

3. Legalization of the Marriage

Where the putative spouse learned of the defect in the marriage before the time as of which status as a spouse must be established but the parties undertook within a reasonable time to legalize their marriage, then the status as a spouse continues. Because loss of the good faith belief is a terminating event, terminate benefits until the couple complete the steps necessary to legalize their marriage. If the couple undertake within a reasonable time the steps necessary to legalize their marriage, the initial determination of termination can be reopened because the reasonable time period would have to occur within the 4 year time period for reopening on the basis of good cause; i.e., new and material evidence. If this is done, reinstate spouse's benefits from the month of termination since his/her status as a spouse continues.

C. Policy - California

1. Law

Prior to 2/4/83, where at least one of the parties to an invalid marriage, either ceremonial or common-law, entered into the marriage in good faith believing that it was valid, the spouse had status as a putative spouse and inheritance rights as a spouse so long as such good faith belief continued. Where the putative spouse learned of the defect in the marriage before the time as of which status as a spouse must be established, but the parties undertook within a reasonable time to legalize their marriage, then the status as a spouse continued.

Effective for claims finally adjudicated on or after 2/4/83, a putative marriage can be established only on the basis of an invalid ceremonial marriage with one very limited exception.

2. Exception

The parties secured a marriage license but never went through a marriage ceremony; the parties were:

  1. individuals unaware of California laws and customs;

  2. unable to ascertain legal requirements due to an inability to read or speak English; and

  3. they had reason to believe that the license alone made them legally married.

Where all the conditions for the exception appear to be met, document the file as to the parties' language ability, length of stay in the U.S., general information on the marriage laws in their native country, as well as the statement regarding their good faith belief.

Route cases involving the exception per GN 01010.815 for possible submittal to the chief counsel.

3. Legalization of the Marriage

Where the putative spouse learned of the defect in the marriage before the time as of which status as a spouse must be established but the parties undertook within a reasonable time to legalize their marriage, then the status as a spouse continues. Because loss of the good faith belief is a terminating event, terminate benefits until the couple complete the steps necessary to legalize their marriage, the initial determination of termination can be reopened because the reasonable time period would have to occur within the 4-year time period for reopening on the basis of good cause; i.e., new and material evidence. If this is done, reinstate spouse's benefits from the month of termination since his/her status as a spouse would continue.

D. Policy - Colorado

Any person who has cohabited with another whom he/she is not legally married in the good faith belief that he/she was married to that person is a putative spouse until knowledge of the fact that he/she is not legally married terminates his/her status and prevents acquisition of further rights. Children born of putative spouses are legitimate. A putative spouse acquires the rights conferred upon a legal spouse whether or not the marriage is prohibited under State law, declared invalid, or otherwise terminated by court action. If there is a legal spouse or other putative spouses, rights acquired by a putative spouse do not supersede the rights of the legal spouse or those acquired by other putative spouses.

A putative marriage may be established in Colorado to give the status of wife or husband to a person who applies for benefits as the spouse of a worker on or after 1/1/74, or to give the status of widow or widower to a person who applies for benefits as the surviving spouse of a worker who died on or after 1/1/74.

Follow the procedures in GN 01010.800 for possible submittal to the RCC any case in which either party alleges a putative marriage in Colorado.

E. Policy - Illinois

1. Law

Any person, having gone through a marriage ceremony, who has cohabited with another to whom he/she is not legally married, in the good faith belief that he/she was married to that person, is a putative spouse under Illinois law until knowledge of the fact that he/she is not legally married terminates his /her status and prevents acquisition of further rights. A putative spouse acquires the rights conferred upon a legal spouse whether or not the marriage is prohibited or declared invalid under State law. If there is a legal spouse or other putative spouse, rights acquired by a putative spouse do not supersede the right of the legal spouse or those acquired by other putative spouses.

A putative marriage may be established in Illinois to give the status of wife or husband to a person who applies for benefits as the spouse of a worker on or after 10/1/77, or to give the status of widow or widower to a person who applies for benefits as the surviving spouse of a worker who died on or after 10/1/77.

2. Effective Date of Provision

This provision cannot be applied in the case of workers who died prior to 10/1/77. In death cases, a putative widow(er) must have had a good faith belief that he/she was currently married to the worker on or after 10/1/77, and that continued through the date of the worker's death. A surviving divorced spouse must have had a good faith belief that he/she was currently married to the worker on or after 10/1/77, and all other requirements must be met. In life cases, the claimant must have had a good faith belief that he/she was currently married to the worker on or after 10/1/77, and the claimant must continue to have a good faith belief throughout the period for which there must have been a "putative marriage." Once a party has vested rights as a putative spouse under State law, subsequent loss after 10/1/77, of a good faith belief that the marriage continues to be valid does not affect those rights, with the exception of a life case. In such cases, the putative marriage and the status of "putative spouse" end with the loss of the good faith belief and the claimant is not entitled to any subsequent benefits as a spouse.

3. Marriage Duration and Legalization

A putative marriage ends when the party loses the good faith belief that he or she is legally married. However, if the parties cohabit after the putative spouse learns of the defect in the marriage, the parties are legally married as of the date of the removal of the impediment, and the putative marriage merges into the legal marriage and/or entitlement to benefits as a spouse or divorced spouse. Where the impediment was removed before 10/1/77, and the parties continued to live together after 10/1/77, or where after that date there is a delay between the date of the removal of the impediment, follow the procedures in GN 01010.800 for submitting questions to the RCC about the length of a marriage or the continuity of payments in a life case.

F. Policy - Louisiana

1. Law

An absolutely null marriage nevertheless produces civil effects in favor of a party who contracted in good faith for as long as that party remains in good faith. Such a marriage is regarded as putative.

However, when the cause of the nullity is one party's prior undissolved marriage, the civil effects continue in favor of the other party, regardless of whether the latter remains in good faith, until the putative marriage is pronounced null or the latter party contracts a valid marriage.

A putative marriage may be established in Louisiana under the above conditions to give the status of husband or wife to a person who applies for benefits as the spouse of an insured on or after 1/1/88, or to give the status of widow or widower to a person who applies for benefits as a surviving spouse of an insured who died on or after 1/1/88.

2. Effective Date Of Provision

This provision cannot be applied in the case of workers who died prior to 1/1/88, nor can it be applied in cases where the putative spouse of a worker applies for benefits prior to 1/1/88.

3. Marriage Duration and Legalization

A putative marriage in Louisiana ends when the putative marriage is pronounced null or the putative spouse who married in good faith contracts a valid marriage.

4. Law Prior To 1/1/88

If at least one of the parties to a ceremonial marriage, or to what one of the parties actually believes was a ceremonial marriage, reasonable and in good faith believes that the marriage is valid, a putative marriage may be created under Louisiana law. A putative marriage, if in force at the death of one party, gives inheritance rights to the innocent spouse even though the marriage is bigamous or otherwise void.

G. Policy - Minnesota

1. Law

Any person who has cohabited with another to whom he/she is not legally married, in the good faith belief that he/she was married to that person, is a putative spouse until knowledge of the fact that he/she is not legally married terminates his/her status and prevents acquisition of further rights. A putative spouse acquires the rights conferred upon a legal spouse whether or not the marriage is prohibited or declared a nullity. If there is a legal spouse or other putative spouses, rights acquired by a putative spouse do not supersede the rights of the legal spouse or those acquired by other putative spouses.

A putative marriage may be established in Minnesota to give the status of wife or husband, to a person who applies for benefits as the spouse of a worker on or after 3/1/79, or to give the status of widow or widower to a person who applies for benefits as the surviving spouse of a worker who died on or after 3/1/79.

Follow the procedures in GN 01010.800 for submitting to the RCC any case in which either party alleges a putative marriage in Minnesota.

EXCEPTION: You do not need to submit cases in which the only issue is whether good faith existed, and the evidence clearly shows good faith or lack of good faith.

2. Effective Date Of Provision

This provision cannot be applied in the case of workers who died prior to 3/1/79. In death cases, a putative widow(er) must have had a good faith belief that he/she was currently married to the worker on or after 3/1/79, and that continued though the date of the worker's death. A surviving divorced spouse must have had a good faith belief that he/she was currently married to the worker on or after 3/1/79, and all other requirements must be met. In life cases, a spouse or a divorced spouse must have had a good faith belief that he/she was currently married to the worker on or after 3/1/79, and the claimant must continue to have such a good faith belief throughout the period for which there must have been a "putative marriage." Once a party has vested rights as a putative spouse under State law, subsequent loss after 3/1/79, of a good faith belief that the marriage continues to be valid does not affect those rights, with the exception of a life case. In such cases, the putative marriage and the status of "putative spouse" end with the loss of the good faith belief that the marriage continues to be valid, and the claimant is not entitled to any subsequent benefits as a spouse.

3. Marriage Duration and Legalization

A putative marriage ends when the party loses the good faith belief that he/she is legally married. Where the putative spouse learned of the defect in the marriage after 3/1/79, but the parties undertook within a reasonable time to legalize their marriage, or where the marriage was legalized before 3/1/79, and continued after 3/1/79, follow the procedures in GN 01010.800 for submitting to the RCC questions about the length of the marriage or the continuity of payments in a life case.


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http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200305085
GN 00305.085 - Putative Marriage - 10/21/2015
Batch run: 10/21/2015
Rev:10/21/2015