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Court split over valid ID requirement for name change

December 5, 2012

The Court of Appeals concluded Wednesday that the trial court erred when it required a valid driver’s license or state identification card as a prerequisite to grant a petition for a name change under Indiana Code 34-28-2, but split over whether an elderly man can change his name because he’s never had a valid state-issued ID.

John William Resnover and John Arthur Herron, both in their 70s, filed petitions in Marion Circuit Court to change their names to the ones they used after discovering different names on their birth certificates. Resnover’s birth certificate lists his name as John Willie Cheatham; Herron’s lists his name as “Infant Male Payne.” Resnover received an Indiana driver’s license, Social Security card and pension using the Resnover name, and didn’t discover the name discrepancy until his license expired and he tried renewing it.

Herron never received a driver’s license or ID card, but did obtain a Social Security card and selective service card identifying him as Herron. His criminal record also lists him as Herron. He did not discover the name discrepancy until he went to apply for Medicaid.

Both men petitioned for name changes, and the Circuit Court denied the requests. Judge Louis Rosenberg reasoned that neither man provided a valid driver’s license or Indiana-issued ID card.

In In Re the Name Change of John William Resnover and In Re the Name Change of John Arthur Herron, 49A02-1205-MI-364, the Court of Appeals looked at I.C. 34-28-2-2 and decided based on the language that all is required is a valid driver’s license or ID number, not an actual card. The statute stipulates the inclusion of the number for a petition for name change. This will allow Resnover the ability to petition for his name change since he has had a valid license in the past and a unique number assigned to him, Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

But Herron’s case is more challenging because he never had a state-issued driver’s license or ID. He asked the court to interpret the “if applicable” phrase in the statute to mean that one has to present a valid license or ID if one is available. The state, as an amicus, opposed this interpretation, claiming it would “gut the statute” and make requirements of subsection 2.5 discretionary.

Judge Terry Crone agreed with the state on this point and believed that Herron should obtain a license or ID using the name on his birth certificate, and then petition to have his named changed to the one he has used his entire life.

But Riley and Judge L. Mark Bailey interpreted the “if applicable” language to indicate that if the required documentation outlined in subsection 2.5 can’t be submitted to the court, the petitioner is relieved from the necessity to produce the documents.

The majority remanded for further proceedings.

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