SSR 69-15: SECTIONS 202(d)(1) and 216(h)(2)(a). -- RELATIONSHIP -- DISAVOWAL OF PATERNITY OF CHILD PREVIOUSLY LEGITIMATED UNDER STATE LAW
20 CFR 404.1101(c)(1) and 404.1109(c)
- The father of a child born out of wedlock publicly acknowledged such child as his child, received him as his own child into his family, and otherwise treated him as if he were a legitimate child, thus conferring legitimate status upon the child from birth under the applicable California law. Based upon such status, the child became entitled to child's insurance benefits on the father's earnings record. Subsequently, the father disavowed paternity of the child. Held, under California law, once the status of heir or legitimate child has been conferred on a child in the manner provided for by statute, this status cannot be changed by later actions of the father and, accordingly, the father's disavowal did not change the child's legitimate status.
R, a fully insured worker, and W, although never married, lived together for a period of time in California. A child, C, was born of the relationship. R legitimated the child under California law by publicly acknowledging C as his child, receiving C into his family, and treating him as a legitimate child. (Section 230 of the California Civil Code.) During the period of living together as a family, R became entitled to old- age insurance benefits. At the same time, C, by virtue of his legitimate status, became entitled to child's benefits based on the father's earnings record. Subsequently, R and W ceased to live together. R then denied paternity of C.
The issue thus raised is whether the father of a child legitimated under State law may later disavow paternity with a resulting revocation of status as "child," thereby rendering the child's entitlement erroneous.
Section 230 of the California Civil Code provides that an illegitimate child shall be deemed for all purposes legitimate from the time of his birth if his father publicly acknowledges the child as his own, receives him as his own child into his family, and otherwise treats him as if he were a legitimate child.
In Estate of Blythe, 4 Cof. Prob. Dec. (Cal.) 67 (1890); the court in discussing the effect of a written acknowledgment stated (at p. 159):
- [O]nce executed, [it] is irrevocable; it created a status that could not thereafter be changed; the moment the writing is executed in conformity with the statute, the "illegitimate child is an heir," and no subsequent act of either party can alter that legal relation.
In In re Jessup, 81 Cal. 408, 21 P.976 (1889), reversed on other grounds on rehearing, 81 Cal. 408, 22 P. 742 (1889), a child was claiming a right to the deceased's estate under § 230 of the California Civil Code. In discussing the contention that the fact that the deceased did not provide for the child in his will offsets his previous treatment of the child as his legitimate child the court commented (at p. 458):
- When the status of the respondent was thus fixed, [by actions satisfying § 230], it could not be affected by subsequent acts of the deceased, by failing to name him in his will, or otherwise. The statute, together with such acts done under it as will constitute an adoption, fixed the status of the illegitimate child irrevocably.
Accordingly, since R had at one time satisfied the requirements of section 230 of the California Civil Code in establishing C's status as his legitimate child, held, R's later act of disavowal of paternity is ineffective and thus did not render erroneous C's entitlement to child's benefits.
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