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In re Application of J. M. M.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

February 13, 2017

In the Matter of the Application of J. M. M. o/b/o Minors for a Change of Name

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-15-18151

         Reversed and remanded

          Katherine S. Barrett Wiik, George D. Carroll, Mohammadee Summra Shariff, Robins Kaplan LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant J.M.M.)

          Rana S. Alexander, Battered Women's Legal Advocacy Project, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for amicus curiae Battered Women's Legal Advocacy Project)

          Considered and decided by Reyes, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Judge; and Smith, Tracy M., Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Minn. Stat. § 259.10, subd. 1 (2016), does not require an applicant-parent to provide notice of a name-change application filed on behalf of a minor child to a biological parent who does not have a legally recognized relationship with the child under the Minnesota Parentage Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 257.51-.74 (2016).

          OPINION

          SMITH, TRACY M., Judge

         Appellant J.M.M. applied to the district court to change the surnames of her three minor children. The Minnesota Change of Name Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 259.10-.13 (2016), provides that a minor child's name may not be changed without "both parents" having notice of the application, "whenever practicable, as determined by the court." Minn. Stat. § 259.10, subd. 1. The district court dismissed J.M.M.'s name-change applications, without prejudice, because J.M.M. did not provide notice to the children's biological father.

         On appeal, J.M.M. argues that the district court (1) erred in interpreting Minn. Stat. § 259.10, subd. 1, to require her to provide notice to the children's biological father and (2) abused its discretion in concluding that it was practicable to provide notice to the biological father. We conclude that the district court erred in determining that the statute required J.M.M. to provide notice to the children's biological father. We therefore do not reach the issue of whether such notice was practicable. We reverse and remand.

         FACTS[1]

         Appellant J.M.M. is the mother of three minor children, ages six, four, and two at the time of the applications, who share a biological father.[2] The biological father is not listed on the children's birth certificates, but the children share his surname. J.M.M. and the biological father have never been married, and no court has ever adjudicated the paternity of the children. The biological father does not pay child support, has not seen any of the children since March 2013, and has not met the youngest child.

         J.M.M. filed name-change applications on behalf of each of her minor children, requesting that each child's surname be changed from the biological father's surname to J.M.M.'s surname. Staff at the Hennepin County Self-Help Center provided J.M.M. with an application form and informed her that she was not required to provide notice to the biological father if paternity had not been previously established. Based on that information, J.M.M. wrote "no other legal parent" in the space asking her to provide the "name and last known address of the non-applicant ...


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