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COA affirms changing boy’s last name

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The mother of a 5-year-old boy was unable to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that the Marion Circuit Court erred in granting his father’s petition to change the boy’s surname to his last name.

Mother C.B. and father B.W. had their son in 2007 and were an on-and-off couple for several years. C.D.B. has his mother’s last name. In 2011, the father filed a petition to establish paternity, and a mediated settlement agreement established paternity and settled custody, visitation and support issues.

B.W. wanted his son to take his last name, but C.B. objected. The Marion Circuit Court granted the father’s request, finding among other things, that the impact of the surname change would not be significant because the boy has no siblings through his mother and the sibling through his father does not have the father’s last name. The boy holds no property under the mother’s last name, and the boy is young enough to learn his new last name.

B.W. did not file an appellee’s brief in C.B. v. B.W., 49A02-1206-JP-539.

The mother claimed the trial court’s findings aren’t supported by the evidence and contain several clearly erroneous statements. Her argument with regards to the findings is a request to reweigh the evidence, which the judges will not do.

Judge Edward Najam pointed out that it is not necessary that every finding support the trial court’s conclusion and that numerous findings and facts in the record support the determination.

“We conclude that, like all children, a child born out of wedlock is better served when he knows and is identified with both parents, and both parents are engaged in his upbringing. A child’s surname connects the child with the parent,” he wrote. “Here, Mother will have physical custody of the child and, as such, the child will continue to be identified with her and will be connected with her in countless ways, large and small, on a daily basis. Father’s surname will connect the child with his non-custodial parent and is a tangible reminder to the child that the child has two parents who care for him, which is in the child’s best interests.”

“Our opinion supports the general principle that it is in the best interests of children born out of wedlock for their fathers not only to provide financial support but also to actively and visibly identify themselves as parents and to participate in their children’s upbringing.”

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