Monday, October 30, 2006
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversedd a trial court that had granted a name change, allowing mother to change her child's last name from her own to that of the child's stepfather, over the objection of father, who had never been married to mother but had been adjudicated father in a paternity action. The court reversed on the grounds that the trial court had erred in sequestering father as a witness during the name change proceeding. "Although an action to change a person's name is not an adversarial proceeding in the traditional sense, Father is a necessary party who had a right to participate in the proceeding. It is reversible error to extend the separation of witnesses to those who have a substantial interest in the subject matter."
In dicta, the court also noted that Indiana statutes provide a presumption in favor of a parent of a minor child who has been making support payments and fulfilling other duties in accordance with a decree and objects to the proposed name change of the child. Mother had argued that the presumption should not apply in this case because the child had never had Father's last name, but the court disagreed, noting that if the court found as a matter of fact that Father fulfilled the requirements of the statute, the presumption would apply.
In re Fetkavich, 2006 Ind. App. LEXIS 2152 (October 27, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited October 30, 2006 bgf)