NIKKI LAVOIE, as Parent, Guardian, and Next-of-Kin of SOPHIE LAVOIE BOONE, a Minor Child, Petitioner,
DANIEL BOONE, Father and Parent of SOPHIE LAVOIE BOONE, Respondent.
Submitted: May 4, 2017
C. Baker, Esquire Baird Mandalas Brockstedt, LLC Attorney for
Gregory A. Morris, Esquire Liguori & Morris Attorney for
OPINION ON REMAND
J. Smalls Chief Judge
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. 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.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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.
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.
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, 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
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.
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
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.
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. Because the Superior Court could not
determine how heavily ...