Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Fairfield
from the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas, Probate
Division, Case No. PM 20180044
Plaintiff-Appellant-Father JOHN H. COUSINS IV
Defendant-Appellee-Mother TIMOTHY D. GERRITY
JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J.
Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.
Appellant-Father appeals from the February 1, 2019 Entry of
the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division
ordering that the name of K.C.M. be changed to K.C.Y.
OF THE FACT AND CASE
Appellant-Father and appellee-Mother are the biological
parents of a daughter born on April 1, 2014. The two were
never married and the child was given appellee's last
name at the time, which was her maiden name. Paternity for
the child was established in 2015.
On May 18, 2018, appellee filed an Application to Change the
child's name from K.C.M. to K.C.Y. The application
stated, in part, that appellee had married and wanted to have
her daughter's last name conform to hers. Appellee
married her husband on December 30, 2016. After appellant
objected, an evidentiary hearing was held on January 25,
On cross-examination, appellant testified that appellee had
been designated the sole residential parent and legal
custodian for the child and that he had waived parenting
time. He testified that it was his understanding that his
parental rights had been eliminated. Appellant, when asked if
it would be in the child's best interest to have her name
changed to appellee's married name, testified that
"[i]f both parents are going to take full responsibility
of the child, then, yes, but not just a name change,
no." Transcript at 15. He testified that if appellee and
her husband wanted "to assume legal and financial
responsibility for [the child], then I'm okay with that,
too, because that's an adoption." Transcript at 16.
Appellant admitted that he was obligated to pay child support
and to contribute to the child's non-reimbursed medical
expenses. He testified that he did not want the child's
last name changed to his last name and admitted that he could
not refute if it was appellee's understanding that
everyone in the community who had contact with the child
supported her name change. Appellant testified that the
child's school sent him photos of her at school and that
the school automatically notified him of her progress. He
never visited her school or spoke with her pediatrician. He
testified that he was not actively seeking information about
his daughter's well-being. Appellant testified that it
was his daughter's choice to have a relationship with him
and that appellee had never expressed that the child had any
interest in having a relationship. He testified that he had
never said that he would not be open to having a relationship
and that it was the child's choice.
Appellant testified that he had not told his extended family
about the child and that his parents and siblings were not
aware that he was a father. Appellant, when asked, stated
that he did not feel bad that he had never shown any interest
in his daughter. The following is an excerpt from
Q. Okay. [appellant], you oppose the name change from
[K.C.M.] to [K.C.Y.] because you believe that that's
going to give you leverage to require my client's husband
to do a stepfather adoption, correct?
A. If they want to change the name, yes, I believe the
adoption is the correct way to go.
Transcript at 30. He testified that he was happy to continue
paying child support if there was no name change. Appellant
testified that he had waived parenting time because he was
working two jobs on two continents and did not want to put
the child in child care or hire a nanny when appellee and her
family were there to support the child.
Appellant further testified that he did not think that it was
in the child's best interest to take on the name of
someone who was not taking on the legal and financial
obligations of being her stepfather and that if the child
assumed her stepfather's name without him taking legal
and financial responsibility for her would be
"effectively fooling society that they are a wholesome
family unit with two legal guardians" and that it was
not in the child's best interest. Transcript at 41.
Appellant testified that it was his understanding that if the
adoption occurred, his financial obligation would discontinue
but that that was not his primary motivation. He testified
that allowing the name change as a substitute for an adoption
deceived the public. He noted that he had consented to an
adoption and that if the name change was allowed, there would
be fewer reasons for the adoption.
Appellee testified at the hearing that she had raised the
child for three and a half years without a husband after the
child's birth and that she had been married for two
years. She admitted that there had been no interaction
between appellant and the child aside from paying child
support and that appellant had never requested that the child
bear his name. Appellee testified that she had never been
contacted by any of appellant's family members and was
not aware that appellant had ...