The claimant, M, and a worker, R, were ceremonially married in Japan in accordance with local customs in May 1951. However, notification of the marriage was not given to the proper authorities as required by Japanese law, and therefore the marriage was invalid. R and M, not knowing of the requirement that the marriage be reported, lived together believing in good faith that they had been validly married.
In January 1953, a child, C, was born to R and M, and R, M, and C lived together in Japan until January 1963 when R died.
In February 1963 M instituted an action to give C status as R's acknowledged child and in April 1963 the Japanese Central Circuit Court issued a decree to the effect that C was the Acknowledged child of R and in September 1963 M filed application for child's insurance benefits on behalf of C.
Under section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Act, an applicant is the child of a deceased worker if, under the intestacy laws of the State in which the worker was domiciled at the time of his death or under the intestacy laws of the District of columbia if the worker was not domiciled in any State at that time, the applicant would have the status of child of the worker for purposes of distribution of the worker's intestate personal property.
Under section 216(h)(2)(B) of the Act, an applicant who is not the child of the worker under the above test shall nevertheless be deemed to be his child if the worker and the child's mother went through a marriage ceremony resulting in a purported marriage between them which, but for a defect in procedure or an impediment arising from a prior marriage, would have been a valid marriage.
The issue is whether C qualifies as R's child under section 216(h)(2). If C so qualifies then he is entitled to child's insurance benefits on R's earnings record, all other requirements for entitlement having been met.
Since R was domiciled in Japan when he died, in order for C to qualify as R's child under section 216(h)(2)(A), C must have inheritance rights as a child of R or have the same status as R's child for purposes of inheritance under the laws of the District of Columbia.
Under the laws of the District of Columbia, only legitimate children can inherit the intestate personal property of their father. The courts of the District will look to the law of the father's domicile at the time of a child's birth to determine if such child was legitimate. If not legitimate at that time, the court will look to the law of the father's domicile as of the time any alleged legitimating act occurred to determine whether the child was legitimated subsequent to his birth. It is not sufficient for a child merely to acquire a right to support from his father, or a right to inherit the father's intestate personal property under the law of the father's foreign domicile. The child must have acquired a legitimate status with respect to his father for all purposes.
Under Japanese law: (1) A marriage, even though a local ceremony was performed, is not valid unless notification to the proper authorities is given; (2) Where the parties to such a marriage fail to give proper notification, the issue of such a marriage are illegitimate; (3) The act of recognizing or acknowledging a child, while a formal act performed by the father or by a court, does not result in the child's legitimation; (4) An acknowledged child may be fully legitimated if the mother and father intermarry and given notification to the proper authority; (5) An acknowledged child enjoys some rights of succession but is not accorded full legitimate status and does not share equally with a legitimate child with respect to intestate succession.
In the instant case, the child, C, was born out of wedlock and was thereafter validly acknowledged. However, since there was never a valid marriage between M and R, C never became legitimate under Japanese laws even though he had some inheritance rights from him natural father.
Since the courts of the District of Columbia would not consider a child who is not legitimate as entitled to inherit intestate personal property from its father, C does not qualify as R's child within the meaning of section 216(h)(2)(A).
Although C does not qualify as R's child within the meaning of section 216(h)(2)(A), he may still qualify as R's child under section 216(h)(2)(B). A child may be entitled to benefits under this section if the parents of the child went through a marriage ceremony but the marriage was invalid due to a defect in the procedure followed in connection with the marriage. (See SSR 63-49, C.B. 1963, p.24.)
In this case, R's ceremonial marriage to M would have been valid except for a defect in procedure (their failure to notify the proper authorities). Accordingly, it is held that C qualifies as R's child under section 216(h)(2)(B) and is therefore entitled to child's insurance benefits, all other requirements for entitlement having been met.
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