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Child’s best interest includes having father’s surname

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A noncustodial father’s active participation in his son’s life convinced the Indiana Court of Appeals that giving the father’s surname to the minor was in the best interest of the child.

The trial court denied the petition for change of name, ruling because the child, N.C.G., had gone by his mother’s surname for more than two years, giving the minor a new last name would not be in his best interest.

The father appealed, asserting the conclusions of the trial court “derived from findings of fact are clearly erroneous.” He told the court he had been trying to get his son’s name changed since the child was born. However, he had been unsuccessfully because he could not settle the issue with the child’s mother.  

In In Re: The Paternity of: N.C.G., B.G. v N.G., 02A04-1301-JP-21, the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the father. It reversed the trial court and remanded with instructions that the trial court enter an order changing N.C.G’s surname to the father’s.

The Court of Appeals pointed to recent cases, namely C.B. v B.W., 985 N.E.2d 340, 348 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013) and Petersen v Burton, 871 N.E.2d 1025, 1029 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), which held that it is in the child’s best interest to carry the father’s surname when the adult pays child support and actively participates in the minor’s life.

“Similarly, as observed in C.B., having a father’s surname under circumstances such as those presented in the instant case is in a child’s best interest because it is a tangible reminder that the child has two parents,” Judge John Baker wrote for the court.

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