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Lavoie v. Boone

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

July 7, 2017

NIKKI LAVOIE, as Parent, Guardian, and Next-of-Kin of SOPHIE LAVOIE BOONE, a Minor Child, Petitioner,
v.
DANIEL BOONE, Father and Parent of SOPHIE LAVOIE BOONE, Respondent.

          Submitted: May 4, 2017

          Aaron C. Baker, Esquire Baird Mandalas Brockstedt, LLC Attorney for Petitioner

          Gregory A. Morris, Esquire Liguori & Morris Attorney for Respondent

          OPINION ON REMAND

          Alex J. Smalls Chief Judge

         This matter is back before the Court for reconsideration of a Petition for Name Change. On October 14, 2015, Sophie Lavoie Boone, by her next of kin, Nikki Lavoie, brought a name change petition pursuant to 10 Del C Ch. 59 and Court of Common Pleas Civil Rule 81, to change the name of her minor child from Sophie Lavoie Boone to Sophie LavoieBoone.[1] After a hearing, the Court issued a decision on December 21, 2015 denying the petition. Upon appeal by Nikki Lavoie, the Superior Court remanded the matter for the Court to reweigh the relevant factors in determining the best interest of the child, in particular whether the name change would detrimentally expose the child to myriad of questions and difficulties. This is the Court's decision following remand.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Sophie Lavoie Boone ("Sophie" or the "child") is presently a seven-year-old minor, born on December 28, 2009. When this litigation commenced on October 14, 2015, Sophie was five years of age. Sophie is the daughter of Daniel Boone ("Respondent") and Nikki Lavoie ("Pe titioner"); both parents have joint custody of Sophie. Sophie resides with Petitioner in Wilmington, Delaware, while Respondent resides in Middletown, Delaware, thus time with the child is not a relevant factor in this matter.

         On October 14, 2015, Nikki Lavoie, filed a petition to change the name of her minor daughter from Sophie Lavoie Boone to Sophie LavoieBoone. The object was to combine the middle name "Lavoie" with the last name "Boone" to create the name "Sophie LavoieBoone." Petitioner contends the proposed name change would preserve and develop Sophie's relationship with her mother, enhance the child's identity as part of the Lavoie family unit, and "bring [Sophie's] name into conformity" with Petitioner's. On November 3, 2015, Respondent filed an answer objecting to the proposed name change, arguing it would not be in the best interest of Sophie.

         On November 16, 2015, the Court held a hearing on the Petition, and heard testimony from Petitioner and Respondent. Petitioner testified that Sophie should have the same surname as her custodial parent. Additionally, Petitioner testified that the proposed name change is necessary so as to avoid confusion wi th schools[2], family, and friends. Petitioner further testified that the proposed name change would allow Sophie to identify with members of the Lavoie family, including her grandparents who played an important role in her childhood.

         Respondent testified that the name change only benefits Petitioner and not Sophie. Respondent testified that it is not "our right" to change Sophie's name without her consent. Furthermore, Respondent testified that Sophie can make the decision to change her own name, if she desires to do so, when she becomes of age.

         On December 21, 2015, the Court found that the proposed name change was not in the best interest of Sophie. After balancing the relevant factors, this Court concluded:

"although granting the Petition would simultaneously alleviate the relatively minor inconveniences experienced by the parents, and superficially execute Ms. Lavoie's desire to draw Sophie closer to her heritage, the change would also detrimentally expose Sophie to the myriad questions and difficulties that accompany a name change at such a critical stage in the child's social development."[3]

         On January 18, 2016, Petitioner filed an appeal to the Superior Court, arguing this Court abused its discretion in denying her petition to change her daughter's surname. Specifically, Petitioner argued this Court's conclusion that changing Sophie's surname would expose her to "myriad questions and difficulties" was not supported by the record.

         On September 15, 2016, the Superior Court issued a decision reversing this decision. The Superior Court agreed with the Court's analysis under the "best interest of the child" standard, finding it was supported by the record. However, the Superior Court disagreed with the Court's analysis that the name change would "detrimentally expose Sophie to the myriad questions and difficulties, " and found that such conclusion was not supported by the record.[4] Because the Superior Court could not determine how heavily ...


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