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In re Change of Name of W.A.G.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Noble

May 25, 2017

IN RE: CHANGE OF NAME OF: W.A.G., C.T.G., P.C.G.

         DomRel Prob Appeal from the Probate Court of Noble County, Ohio Case No. 20169006

          For Plaintiff-Appellee: Atty. Ryan Regel

          For Defendant-Appellant: Gabriel Bocek, pro se

          JUDGES: Hon. Carol Ann Robb Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Mary DeGenaro

          OPINION

          ROBB, P.J.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant Gabriel Bocek appeals the decision of Noble County Probate Court granting Plaintiff-Appellee Kimberly Baker's Applications for Change of Name of a Minor. Appellant, pro se, raises two discernable issues. The first is whether he was properly served with the Applications for Change of Name of a Minor and notice of the hearing on those Applications. The second is whether the probate court abused its discretion when it granted the applications.

         {¶2} For the reasons expressed below, the trial court's decision is vacated. Appellant was not properly served with the Applications and notice of the hearing on those Applications. Accordingly, the trial court did not obtain personal jurisdiction over Appellant. This determination renders Appellant's second argument moot.

         Statement of the Case

         {¶3} On May 9, 2016 Appellee filed an Application for Change of Name of Minor pursuant to R.C. 2717.01 for each of the three children fathered by Appellant. Appellee sought to have the last name of all three children changed from Appellant's surname, Bocek, to her maiden name, Gregg. She also sought to have the youngest child's middle name become his first name and his middle name become Christian. The reasons Appellee asked for the name changes were she and her family would like the Gregg name to be carried on; she has a brother who has two daughters and will not be having any more children. She also stated she is the one raising the boys and Appellant does not consistently exercise visitation. Therefore, it would make for a more cohesive home unit. Also, Appellant has a criminal record; he allegedly recorded Appellee's daughter from a previous relationship getting undressed in the bathroom. Thus, she contends having their father's last name and the youngest child having his father's first name causes embarrassment and will impact their future negatively.

         {¶4} A hearing on the applications was set for June 20, 2016. In the applications, Appellee stated Appellant was the alleged father and listed his address as 129 Timber Meadows Driver, O Fallon, Missouri. This is undisputedly the address for Appellant's parents, where he sometimes stays. Appellant was sent a notice of hearing for the name change by certified mail to that address. The Notice of Hearing was also published in The Journal-Leader for a one week period.

         {¶5} The certified mail was returned unsigned. The envelope stated, "RETURN TO SENDER UNCLAIMED UNABLE TO FORWARD." 6/8/16 Certified Mail Envelope.

         {¶6} The hearing was held on June 20, 2016. Appellant did not attend the hearing. Appellee told the court the Missouri address, Appellant's parent's address, is the only address she has to contact Appellant. Tr. 4-5. Appellee told the court why she wanted the names changed; she wanted to carry on the Gregg name, she was never married to Appellant, she is the one who is raising the children, and Appellant has nothing to do with the children. Tr. 2. She further explained Appellant only saw them twice the previous year - once at Christmas time for a week and one 24 hour period in May. Tr. 3. She also stated Appellant does pay child support, but he is not always current. Tr. 4.

         {¶7} The probate court granted the applications. 6/20/16 J.E. Appellant appealed the decision; his appeal was deemed timely because there was no notation on the docket he was ...


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