December 6, 2005
Case Law Development: Name Changes in Step-Parent Adoptions
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's adoption order in which the court refused to order the change of the child's surname to that of his Mother and Step-father's name, based on the objections of paternal grandparents.
After Father had died, the child's paternal grandparents had sought and obtained visitation rights. When Mother remarried, Step-father formed a close relationship with child and brought an action for adoption. Grandparents were given required notice of the action. Grandparents objected to Step-father's request to change the child's last name to match his own. Mother supported the name change. The trial court denied the name change, relying on authority of the name change statute, which allows anyone who might be harmed by a name change to object and gives the court discretion as to whether to grant a name change. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the name-change statute was inapplicable to an adoption proceeding. In those proceedings, the adoption statutes neither allow third-parties to object to the name change, nor does the court have discretion to deny a requested name change. The court did note that, "in the case of a stepparent adoption where the adoptive parent is married to the child's parent, the child's parent must assent to the proposed name change."
In re Adoption of Jon L., 2005 W. Va. LEXIS 174 (December 1, 2005) Opinion on the web at http://www.state.wv.us/wvsca/docs/fall05/32703.htm (last visited December 5, 2005 bgf)