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In re K.C.M.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Fairfield

December 12, 2019

IN RE: K.C.M.

          Appeal from the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, Case No. PM 20180044

         JUDGMENT: Affirmed

          For Plaintiff-Appellant-Father JOHN H. COUSINS IV

          For Defendant-Appellee-Mother TIMOTHY D. GERRITY

          JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.

          OPINION

          BALDWIN, J.

         {¶1} 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.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACT AND CASE

         {¶2} 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.

         {¶3} 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, 2019.

         {¶4} 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.

         {¶5} 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.

         {¶6} 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 appellant's testimony:

         {¶7} 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?

         {¶8} A. If they want to change the name, yes, I believe the adoption is the correct way to go.

         {¶9} 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.

         {¶10} 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.

         {¶11} 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 ...


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