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In re Application of K.E.O.

Supreme Court, Warren County

February 2, 2017

In the Matter of the Application of K.E.O., As Parent and Natural Guardian of the Infant, O.J.S., For Leave to Change the Infant's Name to O.J.O., Petitioner.

          K.E.O., Johnsburg, petitioner pro se.

          M.S., North River, father pro se.

          Robert J. Muller, J.

         Petitioner K.E.O., who is the mother of O.J.S. (XX/XX/2012) (hereinafter the infant), seeks to change the name of the infant to O.J.O. Petitioner contends that the interests of the infant will be substantially promoted by this name change. Specifically, petitioner states as follows:

"I have primary custody of [the infant], and support her fully on my own. Her father does not see her, ever, for his [] scheduled visitations, [n]or is he paying child supprt [sic] for her. [The infant] will be starting school and I would like her to have the same name as [me] to avoid confusion on her part. Also to avoid confusion in the school because her father is not allowed to see her alone, he has supervised visits only that he does not follow through with."

         The infant's father - M.S. - was given notice of the petition in accordance with Civil Rights Law § 62 (1). He submitted a statement in opposition to the name change, stating as follows:

"I understand there have been missed opertunities [sic] for me to spend time with [the infant]. It['s] not exactly an ideal situation having my mother be the supervisor regarding her schedule and my personal situation. I currently do not have a car or a steady income, but I don't feel that's a reason to change [the infant's] name. [S]he knows me as her father and when I do get to see her she runs to me every time screaming 'Daddy.' There is no confusion."

         The Court directed petitioner and M.S. to appear on December 19, 2016 and, after hearing from each of them, appointed Elizabeth E. Little, Esq. as guardian ad litem for the infant (see CPLR 1202 [a]; Matter of Fleming, 13 Misc.3d 1225 [A], 2006 NY Slip Op 51976[U], *1 [Sup Ct, Suffolk County 2006]). A letter Order was then sent scheduling a second appearance for January 30, 2017 and directing the guardian ad litem to "meet individually with the infant and her parents prior to the appearance date." The letter Order further directed petitioner and M.S. "to cooperate fully with the scheduling of these meetings."

         The guardian ad litem submitted her report to the Court on or about January 25, 2017, indicating that she met with petitioner and the infant on January 11, 2017. During this meeting, the guardian ad litem spoke to the infant, who she found "to be a sweet, age appropriate child." Upon being asked to tell the guardian ad litem her full name, the infant responded with the proposed name - O.J.O. Petitioner further indicated that the infant is known by O.J.O "at both pre-school and at [her daycare]."

         In her report, the guardian ad litem states that petitioner "was very cautious of saying anything negative about [M.S.] in the [infant's] presence so [she] made arrangements to speak with [petitioner] privately." During this private meeting, petitioner detailed her abusive relationship with M.S.. Specifically, she stated that the two resided together when the infant was born but she moved out 8 months later because M.S. "punched a hole in a door, picked [her] up, threw her out the front door and locked her out of the house [after they had] an argument about a dirty diaper." Petitioner further stated that M.S. was ordered to have supervised visitation with the infant "after an incident in October of 2013 when [he] threatened to 'blow his brains out' if [petitioner] did not bring [the infant] to him immediately." Finally, petitioner advised the guardian ad litem that M.S. has made only a few months of child support payments pursuant to a February 2016 order and has been largely absent from the infant's life, seeing her only "five or six times in 2016."

         Finally, the report indicates that the guardian ad litem spoke with M.S. by telephone on January 6, 2017, but he "became very agitated during the phone call and stated that he [did not] need to prove anything to [her]." The guardian ad litem further states as follows:

"I told [M.S.] that I was not making any decisions or judgments but was gathering information so that I could share my impressions with the Court. At this point [M.S.] told me that he would see me in Court, used rude and derogatory language toward me and hung up the phone."

         The guardian ad litem never met with M.S. nor did she have any further contact with him. She ultimately concluded her report with a recommendation that the Court grant the requested name change.

         Following submission of the report, petitioner and the guardian ad litem appeared as scheduled on January 30, 2017. M.S., however, neither appeared nor ...

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