This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Application of Jill Lynn Winegar,
Mother and Natural Guardian of Ryder
McNee Marsden, a Minor, to Change His Name
to Ryder McNee Winegar-Marsden.
Filed September 10, 2002
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C2018112
Michael Perlman, Perlman Law Office, 333 Parkdale Plaza, 1660 South Highway 100, St. Louis Park, MN 55416 (for appellant Jill Lynn Winegar)
D. Graham C. Clark, Jr., 614 Portland Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent Brian M. Marsden)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Minge, Judge, and Parker, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant-mother challenges the denial of her application to change the surname of her child from that of respondent-father to a hyphenated combination of mother’s and father’s surnames. Mother argues that the district court made findings that are unsupported by the record and failed to address the factors to be considered in determining the child’s best interests. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.
Appellant-mother Jill Lynn Winegar and respondent-father Brian M. Marsden are divorced. Their only child is Ryder McNee Marsden, born April 22, 1996, who was given father’s surname at the time of his birth.
In September 2001, mother filed an application to change her child’s surname to “Winegar-Marsden.” In November 2001, the district court heard mother’s application, and father appeared in opposition.
Mother argued that the name change was in the child’s best interests because “it adds continuity and safety and also reflects his dual parentage.” Mother asserted that the change would “add continuity” because she had used the hyphenated name for the child in the past, supporting her argument with documents that are part of Ryder’s insurance, dental, medical, and school records. But the district court found that the documents showed Ryder’s name to be “Ryder M. Winegar,” “Ryder Winegar,” and “Ryder Winegar Marsden” and determined that they could be interpreted as evidence only that “[mother] has been experimenting on her own with various surnames for Ryder and had not herself settled upon any one.” The court also found that the use of any surname other than Marsden for Ryder was without father’s consent. Additionally, mother contended that the change would make Ryder safer because, with the change, he would be “linked” to her quickly in the event of an emergency. The district court denied mother’s application, and this appeal follows.
A district court must grant an application for a change of the minor child’s name unless the court finds the change is not in the best interests of the child. Minn. Stat. § 259.11 (a) (2000). “When granting or denying a petition for a name change, the court must set forth clear and compelling reasons for its decision.” LaChapelle v. Mitten, 607 N.W.2d 151, 166 (Minn. App. 2000) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. May 16, 2000).
To determine a child’s best interests, the court considers: (1) the length of time the child has had the current name; (2) the potential the name change might have to cause harassment or embarrassment; (3) the child’s preference; (4) the effect the name change would have on the child’s relationship with each parent; and (5) the degree of respect the present and proposed names have within the community. In re Saxton, 309 N.W.2d 298, 301 (Minn. 1981). Judicial discretion in ordering a minor’s name change over the objection of one parent is exercised with “great caution and only where the evidence is clear and compelling that the substantial welfare of the child necessitates such change.” LaChapelle, 607 N.W.2d at 166 (quotation omitted).
Mother argues that the district court made findings that are contrary to the evidence. The district court’s findings must be sustained unless clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. Mother contends that the court erred by finding that
[n]o evidence was submitted by either party regarding the child’s preference, the degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed names, or of any difficulties, harassment, or embarrassment that the child might experience from bearing the present or the proposed name.
To support her argument, mother points to her testimony that: (1) she requested the name change for continuity, safety, and recognition of the child’s dual parentage; (2) the child believes his name is already hyphenated; (3) the denial of the name change would be perceived by the child as a change; (4) the child has a close relationship with the mother’s family; (5) she is expecting another child this year whose name will include her surname; and (6) the name change would provide “positive recognition and safety benefits” at school by making Ryder easier to identify as mother’s child in the event of an emergency. Mother also refers to father’s testimony that his relationship with mother has been acrimonious, which has nothing to do with the challenged findings but presumably is offered as a reason for father’s opposition to the petition.
But no testimony of either party addressed the child’s preference; the degree of community respect associated with either name; or any difficulties, harassment, or embarrassment the child might experience as the result of bearing either name. The district court’s findings challenged by mother are not, therefore, erroneous.
Mother also argues that the district court abused its discretion by not addressing in detail the Saxton best-interests factors. But the district court adequately considered all five Saxton factors in finding that (1) the child had used his present name “since his birth more than five and a half years ago”; (2) there was no evidence regarding the potential either name would have to cause harassment or embarrassment; (3) there was no evidence as to the child’s preference; (4) the child has a significant bond with his mother and father and that there is no evidence that “the bond between mother and child requires reinforcement or would be strengthened by the requested change”; and (5) there was no evidence of the degree of respect the present or proposed names have within the community.
We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding there was not clear and compelling evidence that the substantial welfare of the child necessitates a name change and, therefore, denying mother’s application.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.