SSR 84-7c: SECTION 202(d)(1) (42 U.S.C. 402(d)(1)) CHILD'S INSURANCE BENEFITS -- ENTITLEMENT -- VALIDITY OF MARRIAGE OF MENTALLY INCOMPETENT INDIVIDUAL -- ILLINOIS
20 CFR 404.350
Goloff v. Schweiker, 1A Unempl. Ins. Rep. (CCH) ¶ 14, 554 (USDC, N.D., ILL., E. Div. 1982)
- The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied the claimant child's insurance benefits because she was not "unmarried" as required for entitlement under the Social Security Act. On appeal, the claimant's mother contended that the claimant's marriage in Illinois in 1967 was void because the claimant lacked the requisite mental capacity to consent to the marriage. However, the district court found that, under Illinois law, the marriage of a mentally incompetent person is voidable rather than void. Such a marriage can be voided if an Illinois State court declares that the marriage is invalid because the mentally incompetent person lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage at the time it was solemnized. The district court found that the claimant's marriage had not been voided by a State court within the period provided under Illinois law. Therefore, the district court held that SSA's decision denying the claimant child's insurance benefits because she was married was supported by substantial evidence.
NORBERG, District Judge:
This action is before the court on plaintiff's motion for summary judgement, and defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. Jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For reasons hereinafter stated, plaintiff's motion for summary judgement is denied, and defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted.
Plaintiff, acting on behalf of her daughter, Barbara C. Goloff, appeals from a final administrative determination of the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services denying Ms. Goloff insurance benefits under § 202(d) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 402(d). Under § 202(d), the applicant must be unmarried to receive the insurance benefits in question. The administrative law judge based his denial of benefits on the fact that Ms. Goloff was married on June 9, 1967 by a judge in the marriage court of the County Building in Cook County, Illinois. Plaintiffs argue that the marriage was void ab initio because Ms. Goloff lacked the requisite mental capacity to consent to the marriage, and that therefore the administrative Law Judge erred in denying the insurance benefits.
Under Illinois law prior to 1965, a marriage entered into by a person who was mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage was absolutely void. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 89, § 2. This provision was repealed, however, in 1965 and the new statute provided that a marriage entered into by one mentally incompetent was only voidable, and was not void until a court rendered a judgment finding the person to be mentally incompetent. The statute was amended again in 1977, eliminating the "void/voidable" distinction, but specifying that a court shall enter a judgment declaring the invalidity of a marriage if it finds that a person lacked the mental capacity to consent at the time the marriage was solemnized. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 40, par. 301. The plaintiff urges this Court to imply from the fact that the "void/voidable" distinction was eliminated from the new statute that the legislature intended that the pre-1965 law be revived to void a marriage ab initio if it is entered by one lacking the mental capacity to consent to the marriage. The language of the current statute makes it clear, however, that a judicial determination that the marriage is invalid because a party lacked mental capacity is necessary for a marriage to be void. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 40, par. 301.
Although the Court is sympathetic to the plight of Ms. Goloff, it is bound to apply the plain language of the statute and hold that Ms. Goloff's marriage is not void until a judicial invalidation of the marriage is obtained. The proper forum for such a determination is an Illinois state court, not an administrative proceeding for social security benefits or a United States District Court reviewing the administrative proceeding. Unfortunately, Ms. Goloff's marriage is no longer voidable under the applicable statute of limitations. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 40, par. 302(a)(1).
Under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, which provides for judicial review of the Secretary's final decisions, this court must uphold any decision of the Secretary which is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). It is clear that under this standard the decision of the Secretary in this case must be upheld.
Accordingly, plaintiff's motion for summary judgement is denied, and defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted.
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