WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – A woman living in Florida who used the frozen sperm of her dead husband to give birth to children after his death has been barred by the US Supreme Court from collecting social security survivors benefits in their name.

The court ruled unanimously Monday that twins born to Robert Capato’s surviving wife Karen did not qualify for survivor benefits because of a requirement that the federal government use state inheritance laws.

When she used her dead husband’s frozen sperm to conceive her children, she lived in Florida where the law specifically bars children conceived after a parent’s death from receiving an inheritance unless it is specifically mentioned in a will.

After conceiving the children, but before they were born, Karen Capato moved to New Jersey where the law does allow inheritance.

A Philadelphia-based appeals court upheld her claim that New Jersey law should apply.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturned that decision, saying the Capato twins were clearly the biological children of Robert Capato and deserved the survivor benefits. But other federal appellate courts have ruled differently in similar cases, leaving the Supreme Court to come to a final conclusion.

It tossed the lower court ruling out.

“We find the Social Security Administration’s ruling better attuned to the statute’s text and its design to benefit primarily those the deceased wage earner actually supported in his or her lifetime,” Justice Ginsburg said. “And even if the agency’s longstanding interpretation is not the only reasonable one, it is at least a permissible construction entitled to deference.”

Ginsburg called Robert Capato’s death before he and his wife could provide their children with additional siblings “tragic.”


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