20 CFR 404.314

SSR 66-1

Where an individual domiciled in one Mexican State obtains a divorce in another Mexican State in which neither spouse is domiciled, held, such purported divorce would not be recognized under general principles of law as applied by the States of the United States relative to divorce jurisdiction and hence will not have effect of terminating entitlement to wife's insurance benefits under section 202(b) of the Social Security Act.

In May 1964, R, while domiciled in the State of Jalisco, Mexico, became entitled to disability insurance benefits. His wife, G, a domiciliary of New York State qualified for wife's insurance benefits effective the same month. Although there was no change in the domicile of either party, R was granted a divorce in February 1965 by the court of Chihuahua, Mexico. Neither party appeared in person at the divorce hearing. R was represented by a Mexican attorney. Service of summons on G was by publication in a Mexican newspaper. G received no other notice of the pending divorce proceeding, and was not represented therein.

Section 202(b) of the Social Security Act, as amended in 1965 and as pertinent to this case, provides that: "The wife * * * and every divorced wife * * * of an individual entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits * * * shall * * * be entitled to a wife's insurance benefit for each month, beginning with the first month in which she becomes so entitled * * * and ending with the month preceding the first month in which any of the following occurs: * * * (H) in the case of a wife, they are divorced and either (i) she has not attained age 62, or (ii) she has attained age 62 but has not been married to such individual for a period of 20 years immediately before the date the divorce became effective * * *."

The question is whether the divorce obtained by R terminated G's entitlement to wife's insurance benefits under section 202(b) of the Act. This depends upon whether the court properly had jurisdiction to render a valid decree of divorce.

Under the general principles of law as applied by the States of the United States, the domicile of one party within the jurisdiction granting the divorce is required for a divorce to be valid, and a divorce granted in a jurisdiction in which neither party is domiciled need not be recognized by the courts of a Mexican State where both parties were domiciled in States of the United States were not valid.

The same conclusion is reached here since neither R nor G was domiciled in the jurisdiction of the court of the State of Chihuahua at the time of the divorce proceeding. Under Mexico's federal system, as under ours, divorce is a matter controlled by the various States. Domicile in a Mexican State other than the State where the divorce is granted would not be domicile in the jurisdiction granting the purported divorce.

Accordingly, the divorce in this case would not have the effect of terminating wife's insurance benefits payable to G under section 202(b) of the Social Security Act.

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