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In re Petition for Change of Name Enh

Supreme Court of Wyoming

August 30, 2016

IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR CHANGE OF NAME: ENH, a Minor Child
v.
NICHOLAS R. HANSLEY, Appellee (Respondent). SARA SOWERS-COLLISON, Appellant (Petitioner),

         Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Catherine R. Rogers, Judge

          Representing Appellant: James R. Salisbury, The Salisbury Firm, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming

          Representing Appellee: No appearance

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          DAVIS, Justice.

         [¶1] Mother Sara Sowers-Collison, on behalf of her eleven-year-old son, filed a petition in the district court to change the boy's surname. Father Nicholas R. Hansley objected, and the district court denied the petition. Mother appealed that decision. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Mother presents a single claim to this Court:

Did the district court err by denying the petition without considering the best interest of the child?

         FACTS[1]

         [¶3] The child was born to Mother and Father in Ohio on October 9, 2003. Within approximately one year, Mother's current husband came into her and her son's life, and sometime within the next ten years they married. Sometime before the boy's eighth birthday, he moved with Mother from Ohio to Laramie County, Wyoming.

         [¶4] At the time Mother filed her petition, and for an unknown period prior to that, she and Father were subject to a "parenting agreement" that Father implied was court-enforceable in Franklin County, Ohio. Over the years, Father remained as involved in his son's life as his allotted visitation, the distance of their separation, and his limited finances allowed. Mother unilaterally made the decision to move to Wyoming, and the move was already underway when he first learned of it.

         [¶5] On August 12, 2015, Mother filed the petition to change the boy's surname to Sowers-Collison, along with her supporting affidavit. Neither of those documents contains any allegation that the requested name change would be in the child's best interest, or that it would not be detrimental to Father.[2] Father subsequently submitted his handwritten objection to the petition, and the matter was set for a hearing on January 11, 2016.

         [¶6] Mother and the parties' son testified in person at the hearing, and Father appeared and testified by telephone. Ten days later the district court issued an order denying the petition. As its rationale for that ruling, the court noted only that changing the child's surname would be detrimental to Father's interests under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-25-101. Mother timely ...


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