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In re Perez-Vega

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

July 27, 2018

RE: IN THE MATTER OF NOVA ANGELINA PEREZ-VEGA TO NOVA ANGELINA VEGA

          Submitted: June 18, 2018

          Meagan Vega 101 Hagerty Place Townsend, DE 19734 Petitioner

          Miguel Perez 1344 Maple Ave. Wilmington, DE 19805 Respondent

          ORDER AND DECISION ON PETITION FOR NAME CHANGE FOR MINOR CHILDREN

          ROBERT H. SURLES JUDGE

         Dear Ms. Vega and Mr. Perez:

         A hearing for the above-referenced matter was held on June 18, 2018. This matter involves a request for a name change pursuant to Chapter 59 of Title 10 of the Delaware Code for a two-year-old child named Nova Angelina Perez-Vega ("Nova"). The petition requests that her name be changed to Nova Angelina Vega, and was filed by her natural mother, Megan Vega ("Ms. Vega"), who is pursuing the name change on her behalf. Mr. Miguel Perez ("Mr. Perez"), Nova's natural father, opposes the petition. At the hearing, the Court heard testimony from Ms. Vega, Mr. Perez, and Mrs. Marisol Vega, Nova's maternal grandmother. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court reserved decision. This is the Court's decision after the hearing.

         Through the evidence introduced at the hearing, it was established that Ms. Vega and Mr. Perez are the natural parents of Nova. Ms. Vega has primary custody and is the primary caregiver of Nova. Mr. Perez has no parental rights and has no visitation rights. Ms. Vega testified that a visitation agreement was put in place but Mr. Perez failed to abide by it.

         The Family Court had scheduled custody and child support hearings for Nova, but Mr. Perez missed both hearings. The Family Court granted Ms. Vega's request for child support and ordered Mr. Perez to pay $250 a month in child support. To this date, Mr. Perez has not paid any child support and is over $4, 000 in arrears.

         Ms. Vega believes that it is in the best interest of Nova to change her last name from Perez-Vega to Vega. Ms. Vega and her family provide all the financial support to Nova. Presently, Ms. Vega and Nova live at Ms. Vega's parents' home. Ms. Vega testified that Mr. Perez is not a part of Nova's life. At first, Ms. Vega tried to co-parent with Mr. Perez, but he did not participate. Ms. Vega attempted to set up visits between Mr. Perez and Nova, but Mr. Perez always canceled them at the last minute.

         Ms. Vega testified that Nova does not know Mr. Perez. Ms. Vega further testified that it would not be right for her daughter to have her natural father's surname when he is not a part of her life. Ms. Vega believes it would cause confusion and would become difficult for Nova when she starts school in a couple of years.

         Mrs. Marisol Vega, Nova's maternal grandmother, testified that Nova does not identify Mr. Vega as her father. Instead, Nova identifies her maternal grandfather as her father. She also testified that Nova's paternal grandmother used to visit Nova once a month, but does not do so anymore.

         Mr. Perez testified that he is trying to get his life back together and wants to be a better father. He recently obtained his General Equivalence Diploma, and is attempting to enroll at a local college. In June 15, 2018, Mr. Perez got his Certificate of Completion of Family Visitation Center Orientation, which will allow him to have supervised visitation rights with Nova. However, Mr. Perez testified that he has not had time to file a petition to modify his visitation rights, even though he has had the petition for some time. Mr. Perez testified that he has seen Nova on-and-off, only when Ms. Vega allows him to see her. Mr. Perez has only seen Nova once this year. Further, Mr. Perez testified that he was convicted in 2015 on a Felony Burglary charge, for which he served 30 days in the VOP center. In 2017, Mr. Perez was convicted on a Graffiti charge, for which he was sentenced to level two probation. Additionally, Mr. Perez testified that his driving license has been suspended since 2015 after he was charged with underage gambling in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

         Mr. Perez testified that he wants Nova to keep his surname because it would make him fight harder to become a better father to her. He further testified that if the Court grants the name change petition he would not try as hard.

         The legal standard for change of name petitions for minors is whether the change of name is in the "best interest of the child." In re Change of Smith, 2003 WL 23469571, at *4 (Del. Com. PI. Mar. 19, 2003). "Clearly what constitutes the 'best interest of the child' involves a factual analysis involving the relationship and family structure of the minor." Id. The factors the Court considers in determining whether the ...


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