This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the
Mary Greenwood for a name change
on behalf of Alyssa Hazlewood, a minor.
Reversed and remanded
Hennepin County District Court
File No. CN0014033
Robert A. McLeod, McLeod & Troy, PA., 2550 University Avenue, Suite 459S, St. Paul, MN 55114 (for appellant father)
Melanie A. Flores, Smith, Paulson, O’Donnell, & Associates, P.L.C., 207 South Walnut Street, P.O. Box 668, Monticello, MN 55362-0668 (for respondent mother)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Appellant Stephen Mastey appeals from a trial court decision granting the petition of Respondent Mary Greenwood to change the surname of the child of the parties. Because the record is inadequate to permit review, we reverse and remand.
Respondent Mary Greenwood filed an application to change the surname of her daughter, A.H., from Hazlewood, respondent’s maiden name, to her married name. Appellant Stephen Mastey, A.H.’s natural father, objected and filed a competing application to change A.H.’s surname to Mastey.
The trial court conducted a hearing on December 12, 2000 off the record. The court granted respondent’s application, finding that the child’s best interests were served by this change of name. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court improperly applied Minnesota law, failed to make adequate findings, and clearly erred in its findings.
ANDERSON, Judge (concurring specially)
I reluctantly concur in the majority disposition, only because I am persuaded that father - appellant did not have an adequate opportunity to present and argue his counter petition to change the minor child’s surname to his surname.
But it is important to understand the circumstances at issue here. Father and mother were never married. The minor child has never used father’s surname. Both parties agree that it makes sense to change the surname of the child, given that it is a name no longer used by either parent. While father would have us believe that the name change requested by mother will have some unarticulated, as yet unknown, negative bearing on the relationship between the minor child and himself, the district court here found that “[the child] seems to be fully capable of understanding who her natural parents are no matter what name she takes.” While the record may be wholly unsatisfactory in other respects, that finding is not disputed by anyone.
Father makes the statement in his brief that “[t]o change Alyssa’s name to Greenwood would only weaken the bond Alyssa shares with her father.” Father offers no evidence, either by way of offer of proof in the district court, or by argument to this court, that such is the case. Further, although father cites as authority the seminal case on name-change disputes between custodial and non-custodial parents, Robinson v. Hansel, 302 Minn. 34, 223 N.W.2d 138 (1974), father leaves unsaid the fact that in Robinson all four children bore the noncustodial father’s name and all were children of the marriage. Id. at 35, 223 N.W.2d 140.
Robinson does not apply where the biological parents were not married and it is time to affirmatively recognize this reality. See Aitkin County Family Serv. Agency v. Girard, 390 N.W.2d 906, 908 (Minn. App. 1986) (questioning the weight of Robinson in cases where the biological parents were never married).
The supreme court correctly recognized that a name-change petition, where the minor child is born of a marriage and carries the nonmoving party’s name, has serious implications for the relationship between the nonmoving parent and the child. Robinson, 302 Minn. 35-36, 223 N.W.2d 140. But those concerns are usually not present in the sad, but increasingly common, circumstances we find here – nearly thirty years after Robinson – children born and raised without the benefit of married parents.
I do not mean to suggest by this concurring opinion that there are no circumstances under which a never-married father might argue that a child should properly bear his name. Nor do I suggest that the change of name has anything to do with the father’s rights to unimpeded visitation and to fully participate in his daughter’s life; there is at least a hint in the record that mother may not have been fully cooperative in this regard.
It is very difficult to imagine circumstances justifying a change to father’s surname; but by virtue of the majority decision here, and properly so, appellant will have the opportunity to produce evidence on this point, if evidence is to be had.