The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the denial of a mother’s request to sidestep the notice requirements in her quest to change her name and the names of her two children anonymously because she wanted to avoid detection from her abusive partner. The appeals court noted that Administrative Rule 9 would have given her the opportunity to proceed anonymously.
Mother Jane Doe fled Missouri to Indiana in an attempt to escape horrible physical and sexual abuse from the father of her youngest child, Baby Doe. She also has another child, referred to as Mary Doe in the court record. Despite protection orders obtained against the father by Doe and the domestic violence shelter where she resided, the father was able to locate her and abduct her twice. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
In an attempt to escape the abuse and prevent the father from finding information about her, Doe petitioned to change the names of herself and her two children. She wants to sidestep I.C. 34-28-2-3, which requires all name change petitions published in a nearby newspaper, and proceed anonymously. The trial court suggested utilizing Administrative Rule 9 to admit important information into the record while still protecting their identities, but that rule was not used. As a result, the trial court denied the petition.
“Because the Appellants did not utilize the procedures outlined in Rule 9, the outcome of such proceedings is conjecture. Nevertheless, it is fairly likely that some, if not much of their evidence concerning the protective orders, domestic violence, and DCS proceedings, would have been protected from public access under Rule 9,” Judge John Baker wrote in In Re: the Name Change of Jane Doe, Petitioner, Mary Doe, a Minor, and Baby Doe, a Minor, 49A02-1211-MI-894.
“And while Mother’s desire to change her and her children’s name would have indeed proved more difficult in the absence of publication, Rule 9(H) may have provided the relief and protection that Mother so desperately seeks. To be sure, the Commentary to Rule 9(A) speaks volumes: ‘there are times when access to information may lead to, or increase the risk of, harm to individuals.’ However, that said, in light of the record with which we are presented and the current state of the law, we are compelled to uphold the trial court’s denial of the Appellants’ petition for name change,” Baker wrote.