March 28, 1984
(Opinion issued in letter form; name and address deleted)
Re: Opinion of Trustees
Resolution of Dispute
Case No. 81-414
Pursuant to Article IX of the United Mine Workers of America 1950 Benefit Plan and Trust, and under the authority of an exemption granted by the United States Department of Labor, the Trustees have reviewed the facts and circumstances of this dispute concerning the provision of benefits coverage for your claimed common-law wife by the Employer under the terms of the Employer’s Benefit Plan and hereby render their opinion on the matter.
In your description of the facts of this case, you stated that you had previously been married three times prior to your marriage to the person with whom you are now living. However, you formally divorced spouse number four when advised by spouse number three that your divorce from her was never finalized. In spite of the fact that you remain legally married to spouse number three, you have continued to live with and fully support spouse number four.
The issue in dispute is whether spouse number four is an eligible dependent for the purpose of obtaining health benefits coverage under the Employer’s Benefit Plan because you are still living with and fully support her.
In response to your request for Trustee resolution to your dispute, your Employer has submitted information supporting the fact that you are still married to spouse number three. Also among the materials your Employer has submitted was a copy of an arbitrator’s decision in the matter of their disciplinary action taken against you for the fraudulent use of your health benefits coverage. The Trustees note that the arbitrator found that the person with whom you are now living is not eligible for benefits coverage under the Employer’s Benefit Plan.
On review of the merits of this case, the Trustees observe that Article II D. (1) of the Employer’s Benefit Plan provides that health benefits coverage shall be provided to a spouse who is living with or being supported by an eligible Employee or Pensioner. While coverage for a spouse has been construed as including persons under recognized common-law marriages under Question and Answer H-1(81), a copy of which is attached, a precondition to the establishment of a common-law marriage as set forth therein is that there must not be any other living spouse of either party in the background. Inasmuch as you are still legally married to your third spouse, a common-law relationship does not exist between you and the person with whom you are now living. Under the facts as stated, the Employer is not responsible for the provision of benefits coverage for a person with whom you are living, even though you may be providing her full support.
Harrison Combs, Chairman
John J. O’Connell, Trustee
Paul R. Dean, Trustee