Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Petition To Change The Surname Of Son Not In Child’s Best Interest And Denied

In the family law, child custody appellate case of T.W. v. D.A., PICS case No. 15-1723 (Pa. Super. Nov. 10, 2015) the Honorable Anne. E. Lazarus, writing on behalf of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, ruled that the trial court properly denied a father’s petition to change the surname of his son to match his or to hyphenate the child’s name to include both parents’ surnames because the trial court applied the correct best interest of the child standard and the father did not meet his burden of proving that the name change was in the child’s best interest.

A father appealed from an order denying his petition to change the name of his 3-year-old son to his surname or to have the child’s surname hyphenated to include the surnames of both parents. The parents shared legal and physical custody of the child. The trial court concluded that the father did not meet his burden of proving that the proposed name change was in the child’s best interest. The trial court further found that the father sought to change the child’s name to further the father’s own interest in the survival of his surname. The father stated that his name was known in the community because he coached youth sports and he intended to coach his son. He also testified that his motivation for the name change was for his son “to be able to identify with… (the father) and his only sibling.”  However, the trial court did not find the father’s testimony credible. Additionally, the trial court found that the father presented no evidence that changing the child’s surname would strengthen the strong bond between the child and father.

The father, whose testimony was full of references to his own desires, beliefs and concerns, offered minimal support for the issue of whether the name change would be in the child’s best interest. In light of the growing prevalence of blended families, the fact that the parents shared equal custody was a neutral factor. The trial court did not abuse its discretion, and the evidence of record was sufficient to support the trial court’s findings.

The father’s argument that the trial court erred in not evaluating the statutory factors in 23 Pa.C.S.A.§5328 was misplaced because a name change proceeding was not the same as a custody evaluation and the factors listed in §5328 were specific to a best interest analysis in a custody determination.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 38PLW1100 (November 24, 2015)

Filed Under: Name Change of Minor; Best Interest of Child

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