IN RE: CHANGE OF NAME: B.M.F. APPEAL OF: D.C.F., FATHER, Appellant IN RE: CHANGE OF NAME: E.F.F. APPEAL OF: D.C.F., FATHER, Appellant
Appeal from the Order of October 10, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Civil Division at No. 2012-SU-003599-13 Appeal from the Order of October 10, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Civil Division at No. 2012-SU-003598-13
BEFORE: PANELLA, ALLEN and COLVILLE [*], JJ.
Appellant Father brings these consolidated appeals from the order granting Appellee Mother's petitions to change the names of the parties' two sons. The parties were engaged at one time, but never married. The children were, at birth, given Father's last name. Mother petitioned to have the last names of, B.M.F., born in May, 2007, and E.F.F., born in July, 2008, changed to a hyphenated combination of her last name and Father's last name, i.e., E.-F. Father opposed the proposed changes, but testified at the hearing on the petitions that he would agree to use of "E." as an additional middle name for the children. The parties share legal custody of the children; Mother has primary physical custody.
A trial court must exercise discretion in the best interest of a child when reviewing a petition for change of name of a minor. In re Grimes, 609 A.2d 158, 161 (Pa. 1992). Further, in such a case, the petitioner bears the burden of establishing that the proposed change would be in the best interest of the child. Id. We review the trial court's decision for an abuse of discretion. Id. at 159 n.1. "An abuse of discretion is not a mere error in judgment but, rather, involves bias, ill will, partiality, prejudice, manifest unreasonableness, and/or misapplication of law." Commonwealth v. King, 990 A.2d 1172, 1180 (Pa. Super. 2010). A proper exercise of discretion conforms to the law and is based on the facts of record. Commonwealth v. West, 937 A.2d 516, 521 (Pa. Super. 2007).
Father challenges the trial court's ruling in several respects, including the sufficiency of the evidence advanced by Mother to carry her burden. Our review reveals that the trial court's decision was not based on facts of record and did not conform to the law; thus, we reverse.
In its opinion, the court stated:
Given that Father stated he is not opposed to the use of his [sic] last name, the Court will grant Mother's request. The Court finds that based on the evidence offered by Mother and Father that this will serve the best interest of the children. Both families appear to have a good relationship with the children and that [sic] they will not be adversely affected by the children assuming the last name as [E.-F.].
Trial Court Opinion, 10/10/12, at unnumbered 2.
In terms of the evidence Mother advanced to carry her burden of proof, the trial court noted:
Of concern to [Mother] is that the school records list the boys' name of [F.] and sometimes that causes confusion when she needs to be reached. She testified that she sometimes has to provide a birth certificate to verify that she is the mother of the children.
Id. at unnumbered 1.
The trial court's finding concerning difficulty in the children's school reaching Mother is not supported by the record. Mother's ...