In re The Name Change of S.D.L. to S.M.O. Willie Otis Appellant
of Appeals No. H-18-014 Trial Court No. NC 2018 00009
L. Otis, pro se.
Schaefer, for appellees.
DECISION AND JUDGMENT
1} This matter is before the court upon the appeal
of appellant, Willie Otis, of the decision of the Huron
County Common Pleas Court, Probate Division, denying and
dismissing his application for a change of name for his
daughter, S.D.L. Also before the court is the motion of
appellant, objecting to the trial court's adoption of
appellees' statement of evidence and proceedings, and
seeking an order to the trial court to produce a "copy
of the July 13, 2018 name change hearing proceeding."
For the reasons that follow, we deny appellant's motion,
and affirm the judgment of the probate court.
Facts and Procedural Background
2} The sole issue on appeal is whether the trial
court correctly denied the application for a change of name
for S.D.L., appellant's natural daughter. Despite this,
appellant mainly argues his due process and custody rights as
natural father to S.D.L. These arguments are not related to
the instant appeal, but pertain to a prior determination by
the Huron County Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division, which
awarded legal custody of S.D.L. to appellees W.L. and
That decision is not at issue in the present appeal.
3} S.D.L. was born on December 8, 2016, and she has
lived with W.L. and R.L. as part of their family since
leaving the hospital. Shortly after S.D.L.'s birth, her
natural mother, C.C., obtained a birth certificate from the
Huron County Health Department, giving S.D.L. the surname of
W.L. and R.L. At the time of S.D.L.'s birth, C.C. was
married to a man other than appellant. However, paternity was
subsequently established pursuant to R.C. Chapter 3111, and
no party disputes that appellant is the natural father of
4} More than a year after appellant learned he had
fathered S.D.L., appellant filed his application for change
of name of a minor, pursuant to R.C. 2717.01. The trial court
scheduled the matter for hearing and provided notice to all
interested parties, including W.L. and R.L., S.D.L.'s
legal custodians. A hearing was held on July 13, 2018.
Appellant appeared by videoconference from the London
Correctional Institution, where he was serving a sentence for
child endangering. The victim in that case is not S.D.L., but
appellant's son and S.D.L.'s half-brother, T.O.
Appellees W.L. and R.L. also appeared for hearing, along with
5} Appellant called three witnesses at hearing, C.C,
and appellees W.L. and R.L. Appellant also testified on his
own behalf, and appellees' counsel cross-examined
appellant. The focus of appellant's evidence pertained to
the application for the original birth certificate and
custody matters, with scant evidence proffered regarding the
requirements under R.C. 2717.01(A). Instead, appellant argued
that C.C. should have used his surname in applying for the
original birth certificate, and that legally changing
S.D.L.'s name would best serve S.D.L.'s interests,
because it would create a "natural and symbolic
connection to her biological father."
6} After hearing testimony, and considering the
evidence and the requirements under R.C. 2717.01(A), the
trial court found that appellant failed to demonstrate
"reasonable and proper cause" for the requested
name change, and dismissed the application. Appellant filed a
timely notice of appeal from this decision.
7} On January 25, 2019, appellant filed a motion,
seeking leave to supplement the record with his statement of
evidence instanter, pursuant to App.R. 9(C). In response,
appellees also sought leave to file a statement of the
evidence instanter, noting that appellant failed to request a
transcript of the hearing although a transcript was otherwise
available. On February 11, 2019, appellees filed their
response to appellant's statement of evidence. With
conflicting versions of the proceedings below, we briefly
remanded the matter to the trial court for a statement of
evidence and proceedings, as provided under App.R. 9(C).
After reviewing appellant's and appellees' proposed
statements, the trial court adopted appellees' statement
of evidence and proceedings, the record was supplemented
accordingly, and this appeal proceeded.
8} On March 1, 2019, appellant filed his motion,
objecting to the trial court's adoption of appellees'
statement of evidence and proceedings and seeking an order to
the trial court to produce and file a transcript of the July
13, 2018 hearing. In his objection, appellant seeks to
include facts and evidence related to the paternity and
custody proceedings, and disputes appellees' statement of
evidence and proceedings as inaccurate, in part, because
appellees omit this information. Because appellant argues
appellees' statement of evidence and proceedings is
inaccurate, and not properly considered as part of the
record, we address appellant's motion first.
9} Appellant seeks corrections to the record,
arguing the trial court erred in adopting appellees'
version of proceedings because appellees omitted or misstated
the pertinent evidence. Appellant also requests that we order
the trial court to produce and file the transcript of the
hearing held. In support of his motion, appellant attached
his own statement of evidence and proceedings, along with
numerous documents related to the paternity and custody
proceedings. Appellant identifies facts he believes require
correction. None of the requested corrections, however,
relate to the issue on appeal, namely, whether appellant
presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that changing
S.D.L.'s name would be in her best interest.
10} Instead, appellant seeks to supplement the
record to include records and pleadings from prior cases, in
order to reargue the custody case. Appellant also takes issue
with any suggestion he stalked S.D.L.'s mother for
months, or assaulted T.O.'s mother and grandfather, or
lost visitation rights for T.O. He argues that he completed
anger management and parenting courses, contrary to
appellees' assertions, and proffers documents he does not
claim to have submitted within the trial court proceeding,
with some of these documents dated after the date of the
hearing. Appellant also argues that appellees presented
insufficient evidence as to the factors considered by the
trial court regarding a change of name for S.D.L. In ...