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In re Name Change of T.R.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District

July 5, 2013

In re The Name Change of T.R.

Court of Appeals No. L-12-1264 Trial Court No. 2011 NCH 001700

Clint M. McBee, for appellant.

David Woodbury, pro se.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT

YARBROUGH, J.

I. Introduction

{¶ 1} Appellant, T.R. ("mother") appeals the judgment of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, granting appellee's, D.W. ("father"), request to change the name of his son from T.R. to T.W. We affirm.

A. Facts and Procedural Background

{¶ 2} On October 6, 2000, mother bore T.R. At the time of birth, T.R. was given mother's surname, pursuant to R.C. 3705.09, due to father's absence. After the birth, mother began the process of placing T.R. up for adoption. Upon learning of T.R.'s birth however, father immediately registered on the putative father registry and successfully terminated all adoption proceedings. Mother and father co-parented until 2006, when the juvenile court appointed mother as the residential parent and legal guardian of the child. The court granted father parenting time and companionship privileges. In 2010, father filed a motion to modify parental rights and responsibilities, arguing that mother had failed to comply with the terms of the original court order. Following a hearing on the motion, the court found that mother had continually interfered with father's parenting responsibilities and visitation rights to the detriment of the child. Consequently, the court designated father as the residential parent and legal guardian of the child. On August 15, 2011, father filed a request to change T.R.'s name pursuant to R.C. 2717.01(B). On August 14, 2012, the trial court granted the request.

B. Assignment of Error

1. The trial court abused its discretion by finding that it was in the best interest of T.R. to grant father's application to change his surname to that of his father, thereby committing error.

II. Analysis

{¶ 3} When reviewing a decision that a child's name should be changed, an appellate court must not substitute the trial court's judgment with that of its own. Charles B. v. Jennifer S., 6th Dist. No. E-08-012, 2008-Ohio-4276, ¶15, citing In re Jane Doe 1, 57 Ohio St.3d 135, 566 N.E.2d 1181 (1991). Instead, we review the trial court's decision for an abuse of discretion. Id. An abuse of discretion suggests that the trial court's attitude was unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable. Blakemore v. Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219, 450 N.E.2d 1140 (1983).

{¶ 4} In the case of In re Willhite, 85 Ohio St.3d 28, 706 N.E.2d 778 (1999), the Ohio Supreme Court held that in deciding whether or not a name change should be granted the court should contemplate the following factors:

* * * the effect of the change on the preservation and development of the child's relationship with each parent; the identification of the child as part of a family unit; the length of time that the child has used a surname; the preference of the child if the child is of sufficient maturity to express a meaningful preference; whether the child's surname is different from the surname of the child's residential parent; the embarrassment, discomfort, or inconvenience that may result when a child bears a surname different from the residential parent's; parental failure to maintain contact with and support of the child; and ...

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