This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A05-1010

 

 

Application of Chauntel Adair Vick

for Minor Name Change of:

Taylor Allen Stein.

 

 

Filed March 7, 2006

Affirmed

Halbrooks, Judge

 

 

Wright County District Court

File No. C5-05-128

 

 

Terry A. Stein, 240 Fairmont Avenue, Montrose, MN 55363 (pro se appellant)

 

Chauntel Adair Vick, 1505 Third Street NE, Buffalo, MN 55313 (pro se respondent)

 

 

††††††††††† Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

HALBROOKS, Judge

††††††††††† Appellant challenges the district courtís order granting respondentís application for a name change for their minor son, T.A.S.† Respondent filed the application to change T.A.S.ís surname from Stein, appellantís surname, to Vick, respondentís surname.† Appellant alleges that respondent filed the application in order to remove appellant from T.A.S.ís life and that respondent coerced T.A.S. into testifying that he wanted to change his name.† Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting respondentís application, we affirm.

FACTS

††††††††††† In 1990, respondent Chauntel Vick gave birth to her son, T.A.S. †Appellant Terry Stein is T.A.S.ís father.† Appellant and respondentís relationship ended soon after T.A.S.ís birth.† In 1995, respondent married Darin Vick, T.A.S.ís step-father.

Following her marriage, respondent began to refer to T.A.S. with the last name of Vick instead of Stein.† T.A.S.ís school records and social-security card referred to him as Vick, despite the fact that his legal surname was still Stein.† Appellant learned of this in 1997 and, in conjunction with a visitation issue, asked the court for relief.† The district court ordered respondent to refer to T.A.S. by the surname Stein.

In late 2003, appellant became aware that respondent continued to use the surname Vick for T.A.S.† He moved to have respondent held in contempt of court.† Although the district court did not hold respondent in contempt, it did order her to change T.A.S.ís school, medical records, and any other documents to reflect his legal surname.† The district court advised respondent that she could file an application to legally change T.A.S.ís name; but until then, she had to use his legal surname.

In early 2005, respondent filed an Application for a Name Change of a Minor.† Appellant objected to the name change on the ground that it was respondentís way of excluding him from T.A.S.ís life.† The district court conducted a hearing at which appellant, respondent, Darin Vick, T.A.S.ís grandfather, and T.A.S. testified.† Following the hearing, the district court granted respondentís request to change T.A.S.ís surname from Stein to Vick.† This appeal follows.

D E C I S I O N

††††††††††† We review the district courtís decision to grant or deny a name change under an abuse-of-discretion standard.  In re Welfare of C.M.G., 516 N.W.2d 555, 561 (Minn. App. 1994).  We will sustain the district courtís findings unless they are clearly erroneous.  Pikula v. Pikula, 374 N.W.2d 705, 710 (Minn. 1985).  A district court ďshallĒ grant an application for a minorís name change unless the court finds the change is not in the best interests of the child.  Minn. Stat. ß 259.11(a) (2004).  But ďjudicial discretion in ordering a change of a minorís surname against the objection of one parent should be exercised with great caution and only where the evidence is clear and compelling that the substantial welfare of the child necessitates such change.Ē  In re Saxton, 309 N.W.2d 298, 301 (Minn. 1981) (quoting Robinson v. Hansel, 302 Minn. 34, 36, 223 N.W.2d 138, 140 (1974)). 

ďWhen granting or denying a petition for a name change, the court must set forth clear and compelling reasons for its decision.Ē  LaChapelle v. Mitten, 607 N.W.2d 151, 166 (Minn. App. 2000) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. May 16, 2000).  To determine a childís best interests, the court considers various factors:  (1) the length of time that the child has had the current name; (2) the potential that the name change might have to cause embarrassment; (3) the childís preference; (4) the effect that the name change would have on the childís relationship with each parent; and (5) the degree of respect that the present and proposed names have within the community.  Saxton, 309 N.W.2d at 301.†

††††††††††† Appellant asserted that he has made attempts at pursuing a relationship with T.A.S. over the years but that respondent has frustrated those attempts.† He claimed that he tried to enforce his visitation rights with T.A.S. and that he possessed a court order stating that he was authorized to remove T.A.S. from respondentís residence.† He also claimed that when he encountered resistance from respondent, law enforcement refused to enforce the order.†

The district court found that appellant had a strained relationship with TA.S. and that the name change would not further impair the relationship.† The district court noted that appellant had made little effort to foster a relationship with T.A.S. in recent years, but that the name change would not prevent appellant from trying to cultivate a relationship with his son.

The court also found that T.A.S. had used the surname Vick since 1995 and that his school records used the surname Vick.† Thus, his teachers, friends, and others in the community know him as Vick.† The district court found that changing T.A.S.ís surname to Vick would not be embarrassing to T.A.S.† To the contrary, the district court noted that keeping the surname Stein would be embarrassing to T.A.S. because he would have a name different from his mother and step-father, with whom he resides.

T.A.S. testified that he wanted to legally change his name to Vick and that he would likely do so voluntarily when he reached 18, regardless of the district courtís decision.† Cf. Ross v. Ross, 477 N.W.2d 753, 757 (Minn. App. 1991) (stating that ď[t]here is serious question when dealing with a child of this age whether trial courts can practically contradict the childís choice even if it was shown to be misguidedĒ).† Taking that into consideration, the district court found that, because T.A.S. would likely change his name when he turned 18, it was in his best interests to change it now in order to provide consistency before he obtained a driverís license and established a work history.†

††††††††††† The district court carefully considered each of these factors when determining whether to grant respondentís request to change T.A.S.ís legal surname from Stein to Vick.† After hearing testimony from witnesses and from T.A.S., the district court made explicit findings on each of the Saxton factors and concluded that the name change was in T.A.S.ís best interests.†

††††††††††† Based on this record, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion.

††††††††††† Affirmed.