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Legally Adopted Children

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

329. Legally Adopted Children

329.1 What is the definition of "legally adopted child"?

A "legally adopted child" of the worker means a child who was legally adopted under the adoption laws of the State or foreign country where the adoption took place.

A child who is legally adopted by the worker's surviving spouse after the worker's death is considered the worker's legally adopted child as of the date of the worker's death if:

  1. The child was either living with or receiving one-half support from the worker at the time of the worker's death; and

  2. One of the following is met:

    1. The worker started procedings to adopt the child before his or her death; or

    2. The child was adopted by the worker's surviving spouse within two years after the worker's death.

329.2 What is the effective date of an adoption decree?

The effective date of an adoption decree is important in deciding when an adopted child becomes entitled to benefits. In some States, both an interlocutory and final decree of adoption may be issued. In other States, only one decree or order is issued. The effective date of an adoption is determined by the law of the State where the adoption took place.

Last Revised: Jun. 29, 2004

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