Appeal from the Order July 30, 1984 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil, No. GD 84-2616
Felix Deguilio, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Theodore F. Huckestein, Jr., Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Montemuro, Roberts and Bloom, JJ.*fn*
[ 344 Pa. Super. Page 565]
This appeal challenges the trial court's order changing a minor child's name from Jessica Claire Schidlmeier, as designated on her duly registered birth certificate, to Jessica Claire Koslof. The court granted the change on the petition of appellee Paul Koslof, Jessica's father, over the opposition of appellant Dona Schidlmeier, Jessica's mother. We reverse the order changing Jessica's surname.
Paul Koslof and Dona Schidlmeier were married on December 19, 1981. At the time of the marriage, Dona also had a seven-year-old daughter, Jeanette Schidlmeier, who is not Paul's child. On February 22, 1982 Paul and Dona separated. Both parties then knew that Dona was pregnant. The court found that Dona used the name Koslof before the separation and her birth name, Schidlmeier, after the separation.
Jessica was born on July 28, 1982 in Allegheny County, five months after her parents separated. Dona chose the name Jessica Claire Schidlmeier and a birth certificate bearing that name was recorded with the Department of Health. Approximately two days after Jessica was born, Dona informed Paul of Jessica's birth. Paul went to the hospital that evening and learned that both Dona and Jessica were registered at the hospital under the name Schidlmeier.
[ 344 Pa. Super. Page 566]
On February 15, 1984, more than 18 months after Jessica Schidlmeier's birth certificate was recorded, Paul filed a petition to change Jessica's surname to Koslof. In April 1984, at the time of the hearing on the petition, Jessica was 21 months old and had lived with her mother and Jeanette since birth. A divorce action filed by Paul was then pending, Paul had partial custody of Jessica, and Paul was regularly making payments for support of Dona and Jessica pursuant to court order.
Appellant raises four arguments on this appeal: (1) that the non-custodial parent of a minor child does not have standing to petition to change the child's name, (2) that the custodial parent has the right to choose a newborn child's name pursuant to Health Department regulations, (3) that appellant was acting in the child's best interests by giving the child a surname of her choice, and (4) that granting the father a primary right to choose a child's surname is contrary to the 1971 Equal Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article I, § 28.*fn1
[ 344 Pa. Super. Page 567]
Appellant asserts that the custodial parent has an absolute right to determine the surname of a minor child in his or her care. She likewise contends that the non-custodial parent has no standing to petition to change a name properly registered on the child's birth certificate. Although it is unusual for a non-custodial parent to petition to change a child's name, we are unpersuaded that appellee lacks standing to ...