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MATTER PETITION MICHELE LYN CHRISTJOHN (04/10/81)

filed: April 10, 1981.

IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION OF MICHELE LYN CHRISTJOHN, A MINOR BY CYNTHIA R. BARNES, HER MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN FOR CHANGE OF NAME OF MICHELE LYN BARNES. APPEAL OF CHARLES A. CHRISTJOHN


No. 152 April Term, 1979, Appeal from the Decree of the Court of Common Pleas of McKean County, Civil Division, No. 142 September, 1977.

COUNSEL

Charles A. Bierbach, Huntingdon, for appellant.

Joseph Graff, Bradford, for appellee.

Price, Hester and Cavanaugh, JJ.

Author: Price

[ 286 Pa. Super. Page 113]

Appellant appeals from a decree granting a petition for change of name of a minor. Appellant contends that the judge abused his discretionary power in permitting the name change. We disagree and, therefore, affirm the decree.

Appellant, Charles A. Christjohn, and appellee, Cynthia R. Barnes, the natural parents of Michele Lyn Barnes, were divorced in March of 1975. In July of 1975, appellee, who retained custody of Michele, married Robert Barnes. On April 24, 1976, appellant shot and killed Mr. Barnes. Appellant

[ 286 Pa. Super. Page 114]

    was found guilty of murder of the second degree*fn1 and is currently incarcerated at Rockview Penitentiary in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

On July 15, 1977, Mrs. Barnes filed a petition on behalf of Michele to have Michele's surname changed from Christjohn to Barnes.*fn2 Upon receipt of notice of the petition Charles Christjohn filed a petition opposing the name change. A hearing was held, and on January 15, 1979, the change of name was granted.

In reaching his determination the chancellor relied upon the following facts elicited at the hearing. Michele learned of the circumstances causing her stepfather's death through the extensive publicity accorded the incident. Dr. John Pitkan, a child psychiatrist, attributed the emotional instability Michele experienced after the incident to the trauma she had suffered. He stated that when he last consulted with Michele, on or about November 1, 1978, she gave her name as Michele Barnes. Michele's emotional state subsequent to the shooting made it necessary for her to repeat the first grade. Her teacher, Jean Hullihen, testified that on several occasions Michele tried to use her stepfather's surname. Both Dr. Pitkan and Mrs. Hullihen stated that they thought it would be in Michele's best interest to change her name to Barnes.*fn3

Appellant concedes that there were no lawful objections to the granting of the petition for change of name. In the absence of lawful objection, the granting of such a petition is a ...


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