SSR 69-27a: SECTION 216(h)(1)(B). -- RELATIONSHIP UNDER DEEMED MARRIAGE PROVISIONS -- SPOUSE NOT LIVING IN SAME HOUSEHOLD AT TIME OF WORKER'S DEATH
20 CFR 404.1101 and 404.1112
- Claimant's ceremonial marriage to the worker in New York was void because of the existence of an impediment of which the claimant had no knowledge. After living together for over a year, the worker abandoned the claimant. The separation continued until his death. Claimant filed her widow's insurance benefits. The appeals council held that, although claimant entered into marriage in good faith, the marriage may not be deemed valid within the meaning of section 216(h)(1)(B) of the Act, since claimant and the worker were not "living in the same household" at the time of his death. Accordingly, claimant does not have the status of widow for purposes of widow's insurance benefits.
R ceremonially married W in July 1949 in New York. The record evidence established that a legal impediment existed and that the marriage was void. W had no knowledge of the existence of the impediment. The couple lived in New York until 1951 when R abandoned W and thereafter she neither lived with him nor heard from him. R died in 1963 domiciled in Pennsylvania. Upon attaining the required age, and being notified of R's death, W filed application in May 1965 for widow's insurance benefits.
Under section 216(h)(1)(A) of the Social Security Act, a woman is the widow of a worker for purposes of widow's insurance benefits if the courts of the State in which he was domiciled at the time of his death would find either (1) that the worker and she were validly married at that time, or (2) that she would have the same status as a widow for purposes of sharing in the distribution of his intestate personal property.
Section 216(h)(1)(B) of the Act provides, as pertinent here, that an applicant who is not the wife or widow of an insured worker within the meaning of section 216(h)(1)(A) may, nevertheless, be deemed the wife or widow of the insured individual if the parties went through a marriage ceremony which was void because of a procedural defect or an impediment existing because of the lack of dissolution of a prior marriage of one of the parties and the applicant and worker were living in the same household at the time of the worker's death. This provision is applicable only where it can be established that the purported marriage was entered into by the applicant in good faith and without knowledge of the impediment.
The issue presented is whether W, who was not validly married to R, may become entitled to widow's insurance benefits under the "deemed marriage" provisions of section 216(h)(1)(B) of the Act. All other requirements are met.
Section 404.1112 of Social Security Administration Regulations No. 4 (20 CFR 404.1112) prescribes the circumstances under which a husband and wife may be considered as "living in the same household" for purposes of section 216(h)(1)(B) of the Act. This requirement is met if they customarily lived together as husband and wife in the same place of abode. A temporary absence of one spouse from the abode will not defeat entitlement. Absences may be considered temporary only under the following circumstances:
- (1) if due to service in the U.S. Armed Forces; or
- (2) if for a period not exceeding 6 months, when due to business or employment reasons, or confinement in a penal institution, or in a hospital, nursing home or other curative institution; or
- (3) in any other case where the evidence establishes an intent to resume physically living together at some time in the reasonably near future.
A finding of temporary absence would not be justified in this case. The evidence clearly establishes that at the time of R's death and during the preceding 12 years, R and W were not customarily living together in the same place of abode. There is no evidence of intent to resume living together and thus it must be concluded that they were separated permanently. It follows, therefore, that R and W were not "living in the same household" as defined in the Regulations. Accordingly, although W may have gone through the marriage ceremony in good faith and without knowledge of the legal impediment, W's marriage to R may not be deemed valid under section 216(h)(1)(B) of the Act, as amended, since R and W were not "living in the same household" at the time of R's death. The Appeals Council held, therefore, that W does not have the status of widow, and is not entitled to widow's insurance benefits on R's account.