IN THE MATTER OF: MCKENZEY MAE DEGRACE, Petitioner, TO MCKENZEY MAE DEGRACE-WARD
Submitted: May 8, 2018
Date of Birth: September 29, 2015
Cortney Ward, Pro Se, Mother of Petitioner McKenzey Mae
M. Lynn, Esq., Attorney for Respondent Joseph A. DeGrace.
DECISION ON PETITION FOR NAME CHANGE
KENNETH S. CLARK, JR., JUDGE
8, 2018, the Court held a contested hearing on a Petition to
change the minor child McKenzey Mae DeGrace's surname to
DeGrace-Ward. At the close of the hearing, the Court reserved
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 23, 2018, Petitioner McKenzey Mae DeGrace filed this
Petition through her natural mother, Cortney Ward, seeking to
add Cortney's surname to McKenzey's surname with a
hyphen. Notice of the Petition was published in a local
periodical and served upon McKenzey's father in
accordance with applicable statutes and Court Rules.
natural father, Joseph A. DeGrace, opposes the Petition. The
Court heard the following testimony from the parents.
and Joseph were married January 10, 2014. Prior to the
marriage, Cortney's surname was Ward, and during the
marriage, Cortney's surname was DeGrace. At all times,
Joseph's surname has been DeGrace. McKenzey Mae, Cortney
and Joseph's only child, was born during the marriage on
September 29, 2015, and given the same surname used by both
parents at the time. Cortney and Joseph separated on April 8,
2017, and were divorced on November 22, 2017. Cortney resumed
her surname of Ward.
and Joseph lived together with McKenzey from her birth until
their separation, when Cortney and McKenzey moved to Milton,
Delaware to live with Cortney's parents, Carl and Cathy
Ward. Cortney and McKenzey still reside at that address.
Cortney testified that McKenzey has a positive relationship
with Carl and Cathy and her extended maternal family.
the date of the hearing, custody and placement of McKenzey is
governed by an interim custody order entered by Family Court.
A final custody hearing is scheduled for July 2018. Under the
interim order, Cortney has primary placement of McKenzey, and
Joseph has visitation with McKenzey every other weekend from
Friday evening until Monday morning, one overnight in the
middle of the week, and a dinner visit in the middle of the
week. Joseph faithfully sees McKenzey at the appointed times.
points of dispute at the hearing primarily concerned two
topics: (1) Cortney's objections to McKenzey being left
alone with certain members of Joseph's family; and (2) an
incident at the pharmacy where McKenzey's prescription
came to be logged under the surname DeGrace-Ward.
short, Cortney testified that she objects to McKenzey being
left alone with certain members of Joseph's family.
Cortney testified to various behaviors she has observed in
Joseph's family and the reasons why she believes it would
be in McKenzey's best interest that contact with certain
members only occur in a supervised setting or public place.
No evidence was presented that any member of Joseph's
family has ever been convicted of any crime or investigated
for any misconduct towards children, and Cortney testified
that she is not aware of any such evidence.
testified that Cortney's allegations concerning his
family members are untrue and her characterization of his
family as dysfunctional is unfounded.
and Joseph's testimony regarding the incident at the
pharmacy is similarly at odds. Joseph testified that he
presented himself at Walgreens on a Friday evening to check
on a prescription for McKenzey and, at that time, the
prescription was under the name McKenzey Mae DeGrace. Joseph
further testified that on Saturday morning Cortney expressed
her displeasure with Joseph attempting to fill McKenzey's
prescription without her knowledge to him via text message.
When Joseph returned to the pharmacy to pick up the
prescription on Monday, Walgreens was initially unable to
locate the prescription because the prescription was filled
under the name McKenzey Mae DeGrace-Ward.
testified that the pharmacy changed McKenzey's name in
its system from DeGrace to DeGrace-Ward due to an issue with
processing the prescription through Cortney's insurance.
Joseph questioned the likelihood that the pharmacy would take
such an action on its own, implying that Cortney requested
that McKenzey's surname be changed in order to interfere
with Joseph's attempt to fill the prescription. Cortney
denied any involvement in the decision to change
McKenzey's surname from DeGrace to DeGrace-Ward in the
regard to what effect changing McKenzey's surname to
DeGrace-Ward will have on McKenzey's relationship with
her family, Cortney expressed her desire to share her last
name with McKenzey and testified that the change would help
identify McKenzey ...