A woman, W, married H-1 in 1926. After a few months they separated and H-1 moved to California where he has resided ever since. Neither party instituted proceedings to dissolve their marriage. Since 1929, W has been living in New Jersey with another man, H-2, although without a marriage ceremony. W and H-2 have 3 children, all of whom are over 18. Both H-1 and H-2 were receiving old-age insurance benefits in December 1961 when W attained age 62 and filed application for wife's insurance benefits. She stated that she would prefer to receive benefits only on the earnings record of H-2. However, if ineligible for such benefits and eligible for benefits on H-1's earnings record, she wished to receive the latter benefits.
To quality for wife's insurance benefits on a worker's earnings record, a woman must (under section 202(b) of the Act) be the wife of that worker, besides meeting certain other requirements. W met all the other requirements for entitlement on the earnings records of both H-1 and H-2. Whether she can become entitled to benefits on the earnings record of either worker depends upon whether she is the wife of that worker.
Under section 216(h)(1), for purposes of benefits under the Act, a woman is the wife of a worker if the courts of the State in which he is domiciled at the time she files her application would find that either (1) the worker and she were validly married at that time, or (2) she would have the same status as a wife for a share in the distribution of his personal property if he had died intestate. A woman who does not meet either of these requirements may nevertheless be deemed to be validly married to the worker if in good faith she went through a marriage ceremony with him and meets certain other conditions.
In the present case, W's marriage to H-1 had never been dissolved; thus, the courts of California would find that she was validly married to him at the time she filed her application. Under applicable New Jersey law, she would not be considered to be validly married to H-2, nor would she have the status of his wife for purposes of sharing in his intestate personal property. Moreover, she did not go through a marriage ceremony with him.
Accordingly, it was held that W did not qualify as H-2's wife but did qualify as H-1's wife, for purposes of entitlement to wife's insurance benefits; and was therefore entitled to wife's insurance benefits on H-1's earnings record, but was not entitled to such benefits on H-2's earnings record.
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