Social Security Benefits for Legally Adopted Child

October 28, 2014

Although same-sex couples often have difficulty jointly adopting children in Michigan, some judges have allowed second-parent adoptions, where a non-biological parent joins with a biological parent to adopt a child they are raising together. T.J. McCant adopted the biological child of her same-sex partner in this way in 2005, receiving a valid order of adoption from a Shiawassee County judge.

Recently, T.J. became disabled and applied for Social Security benefits that any disabled parent can receive to help raise his or her legal child. An administrative law judge in the Social Security Administration denied benefits, stating that T.J.’s adoption is invalid because unmarried couples are not permitted to jointly adopt children under Michigan law. The ACLU of Michigan represented T.J. in appealing this decision to the Social Security Appeals Council in January 2014.

We argued that unmarried couples are allowed to adopt, and in any event once a valid adoption order is issued by a state judge, the child is entitled to the same benefits that would be due to a legally adopted child in any other family.

In October 2014, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the local field office for reconsideration of its initial decision, and the case remains pending. 

(In re McCant; ACLU Attorney Jay Kaplan.)

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