Anoka County District Court File No. C5-03-2244
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge;
and Minge, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kalitowski, Judge
Appellant David Schafer challenges the district court's decision to grant respondent Shere Lynn Cox's motion to change the surname of the parties' child from Schafer to Cox. We affirm.
Minn. Stat. § 259.11 (a) (2002) provides that a district court "shall" grant an application to change a child's name unless "the court finds that such name change is not in the best interests of the child." But the supreme court has held that "judicial discretion in ordering a change of a minor's surname against the objection of one parent should be exercised with great caution and only where the evidence is clear and compelling that the substantial welfare of the child necessitates such change." Robinson v. Hansel, 302 Minn. 34, 36, 223 N.W.2d 138, 140 (1974). The district court should consider such factors as the child's preference, the effect of the name change on the child's relationship to each parent, the length of time the child has had his or her current name, the degree of community respect for the current and proposed names, and the difficulties the child may face with either the current or the proposed name. In re Application of Saxton, 309 N.W.2d 298, 301 (Minn. 1981).
Here, the district court's detailed findings reflect its consideration of the appropriate factors. The court found that changing the child's surname from Schafer to Cox would provide consistency and less confusion for the child, since he would share the name of his mother and stepfather, with whom he lives full time. The court further found that at five years of age, the child would suffer little or no societal disruption from the name change. The child had not yet started school, has no particular religious affiliation, and had no strong community ties to the name Schafer. These findings are supported by testimonial evidence given at the name-change hearing.
Importantly, the district court also noted the fact that appellant moved to Florida and has had little or no contact with the child since October 2001 and that if, in the future, appellant wished to establish a closer parent/child relationship, he would not be unduly hindered by the child's changed name. Based on all the evidence, the district court concluded that it was in the child's best interests to change the child's surname from Schafer to Cox. On this record we cannot say the district court abused its discretion in granting respondent's request to change the child's surname.
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