PR 05010: Applicable State Law in Deciding Mother/Father Relationship
TN 1 (09-09)
DATE: May 22, 2009
The parties married in Utah but an Oregon court entered the judgment of annulment. Generally the law of the place in which the marriage occurred determines the validity of the marriage. Under Utah and Oregon law a marriage is void when one party is already married. Therefore, the marriage was void under the laws of either State and surviving mother's benefits should be reinstated.
Whether a marriage is “void” or “voidable,” for purposes of determining an individual’s entitlement to reinstatement of surviving mother’s benefits, when one party to the marriage is already married. The parties were married in Utah and an Oregon court entered a judgment of annulment.
A marriage is void under Utah and Oregon law when one party is already married. Therefore, surviving mother’s benefits should be reinstated as of the month of the prior termination of benefits.
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE
Ms. H received surviving mother’s benefits on the record of her deceased spouse, Mr. H, after his death in February 2002. She received benefits through January 2008, when the benefits terminated due to her marriage to Mr. C on February 15, 2008, in Utah. In September 2008, an Oregon court entered a judgment of annulment on the ground that the marriage was void because Mr. C was married to another woman. The court also awarded spousal support in the amount of $400.00 per month for a period of twelve months for Ms. H’s lost surviving mother’s benefits.
For purposes of reinstating benefits previously terminated because of remarriage, the agency distinguishes between marriages that are “voidable” and marriages that are “void” under applicable state law. Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN 00305.130, 00305.125. A “void” marriage is “a marriage which is legally nonexistent from the beginning under State law, with or without a judicial decree.” POMS GN 00305.125. Benefits previously terminated because of remarriage that is determined to be void are reinstated as of the month of the prior termination. POMS GN 00305.125.
In this matter, the parties married in Utah, but an Oregon court entered the judgment of annulment. Ordinarily, the law of the place in which the marriage occurred determines the validity of the marriage. POMS GN 00305.005. In Utah, a marriage is void when there is a husband or wife living, from whom the person marrying has not been divorced. Utah Code Ann. § 30-1-2. Similarly such a marriage is also “void from the beginning” under Oregon law. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 106.020(1), 107.005(1). Accordingly, the marriage was void under the laws of either state. Therefore, Ms. H’s surviving mother’s benefits should be reinstated as of February 2008, the month of termination.
It is our opinion that Ms. H’s marriage to Mr. C was void under Utah and Oregon law. Her surviving mother’s benefits should be reinstated effective February 2008.