Matter of: Connie P. Isaac Claim for unpaid compensation File: B-247541 Date: June 19, 1992

B-247541: Jun 19, 1992

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CIVILIAN PERSONNEL Compensation Balances Personnel death Payees Determination CIVILIAN PERSONNEL Compensation Personnel death Balances Payees A claimant failed to establish that she was the common-law wife of a federal employee at the time of the employee's death. Issues of marital status are determined by state law. On the grounds that she was his common-law wife at the time of his death. He was survived by his mother and a minor daughter. Isaac were living together in Cleveland. Who is Tonia's mother. Also is the mother of two other children she claims were fathered by Mr. Issues of personal status are determined by the applicable state law. Isaac was unmarried. This was not accomplished before his death.

Matter of: Connie P. Isaac Claim for unpaid compensation File: B-247541 Date: June 19, 1992

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL Compensation Balances Personnel death Payees Determination CIVILIAN PERSONNEL Compensation Personnel death Balances Payees A claimant failed to establish that she was the common-law wife of a federal employee at the time of the employee's death, and therefore, she may not receive his unpaid compensation. Issues of marital status are determined by state law, which in this case required proof of cohabitation and reputation of marriage by clear and convincing evidence. The record contains many conflicting documents and statements; therefore, the claimant did not meet her burden of proof.

DECISION Ms. Connie P. Isaac claims the unpaid compensation of Mr. Anthony Sampson, a deceased federal employee, on the grounds that she was his common-law wife at the time of his death. We deny the claim Mr. Sampson died on October 2, 1991 without having designated a beneficiary for his unpaid compensation. He was survived by his mother and a minor daughter, Tonia Ann Isaac, who had been declared his natural child by an Ohio court. At the time of his death, Mr. Sampson and Ms. Isaac were living together in Cleveland, Ohio. Ms. Isaac, who is Tonia's mother, also is the mother of two other children she claims were fathered by Mr. Sampson, but whose paternity has never been legally established.

The applicable statute establishes the following order of precedence for a deceased employee's unpaid compensation: (1) the beneficiary designated by the employee, (2) the employee's widow or widower, (3) the employee's child or children, (4) the employee's parents or the survivor of them, (5) the employee's legal representative and (6) the person or person entitled under the applicable state law. 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5582(b) (1988).

Issues of personal status are determined by the applicable state law. Bernice Webb Becks, B-227483, Oct. 23, 1987; Leroy Chase, Jr., B-226914, Sept. 9, 1988. At the time of Mr. Sampson's death, the applicable statute in Ohio recognized common-law marriages upon "proof of cohabitation and reputation of the marriage of the parties. . . ." Ohio Revised Statutes, Sec. 3105.12 (1991). However, proof must be by clear and convincing evidence. United States v. Goble, 512 F.2d 458, 475 (6th Cir. 1975).

In her claim Ms. Isaac states that she and Mr. Sampson had a common-law marriage since November 25, 1982. However, the court that established Tonia's paternity found that at time of the child's birth on August 9, 1985, Ms. Isaac was unmarried. Three persons submitted letters attesting to their personal knowledge that Ms. Isaac and Mr. Sampson had been living together. However, none of the letters indicate that either Ms. Isaac or Mr. Sampson ever identified themselves as a married couple. In fact, two letters refer to Mr. Sampson's stated intention to marry Ms. Isaac after he had saved more money, but this was not accomplished before his death.

The record also includes three health benefit election forms signed by Mr. Sampson. On one of them, dated December 2, 1986, Mr. Sampson listed Ms. Isaac as his spouse. However, on the other two, dated June 13, 1983 and January 24, 1991, Mr. Sampson states that he is unmarried. Although Ms. Isaac is listed as his spouse on Mr. Sampson's death certificate, the record does not disclose whether that document was based on information supplied by Ms. Isaac or someone else.

Given the contradictory information in the record, we cannot conclude that Ms. Isaac has proven by clear and convincing evidence that she was Mr. Sampson's common-law wife at the time of Mr. Sampson's death. Accordingly, the order of precedence in section 5582 requires payment of Mr. Sampson's unpaid compensation to his daughter, Tonia.