In the Matter of L.Z.N. for Name Change Charlotte Lynn Jackson, Petitioner and Appellee
Shawn David Narvais, Respondent and Appellant
from the District Court of Ward County, North Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Richard L. Hagar, Judge.
P. Humphrey, Minot, ND, for petitioner and appellee;
submitted on brief.
D. Narvais, self-represented, Bismarck, ND, respondent and
appellant; submitted on brief.
VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
1] Shawn Narvais appealed a district court's order
granting a petition to change his child's surname.
Narvais argues the district court used improper factors in
determining the best interest of L.Z.N., he was not provided
proper notice of the name change petition, and his due
process rights were violated because he was not allowed to
appear for the hearing. We affirm.
2] Charlotte Jackson-Narvais ("Jackson") and Shawn
Narvais were married and had one child, L.Z.N., born in 2014.
Shortly after L.Z.N.'s birth, Narvais plead guilty to
four counts of possession of certain materials prohibited
under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-27.2-04.1. The parties divorced in
2015. In June 2016, Jackson filed a petition on behalf of
L.Z.N. to change his surname. Jackson argued for the change
of L.Z.N.'s name because: (1) she did not want L.Z.N. to
carry around the stigma of Narvais's crimes because he
shared a last name with his father; (2) she wanted L.Z.N. to
have the same last name as his half-sibling, herself, and his
maternal grandparents; (3) L.Z.N. wanted to change his last
name; and (4) Narvais requested a paternity test to establish
his relationship with L.Z.N. and has not been involved with
or supported L.Z.N. in any significant way since his
3] Narvais opposed the petition. A hearing was set and
because Narvais was still incarcerated, the district court
allowed him to appear telephonically. Narvais requested an
order from the district court requiring the Department of
Corrections to allow for his appearance telephonically. The
district court denied Narvais's request. Narvais did not
appear, nor was he represented by counsel. After hearing
testimony and receiving evidence, the district court granted
Jackson's petition to change L.Z.N.'s name to L.Z.J.
4] On appeal, Narvais argues: (1) the district court did not
provide proper findings to support its decision; (2) he did
not receive proper notice as required under N.D.C.C. §
32-28-02(4); and (3) his due process rights were violated
because he was unable to appear for the hearing.
5] We review a district court's decision to grant or deny
a name change under N.D.C.C. § 32-28-02 under an abuse
of discretion standard. In re Berger ex rel. K.C.F.,
2010 ND 28, ¶ 8, 778 N.W.2d 579. However, in situations
where the name change is for a minor child, the district
court's analysis must incorporate the best interest of
the child. Id. On appeal, these findings are subject
to the clearly erroneous standard of review. Id.
6] Narvais argues the district court used improper factors in
determining the best interest of L.Z.N. First, Narvais
asserts the district court impermissibly admitted his request
for a paternity test in deciding the best interest of L.Z.N.
because he asked for the test to show the faithfulness of
Jackson, not the paternity of L.Z.N. Because Narvais did not
appear at the hearing, the document was admitted without
objection. Therefore, the district court did not err in
including Narvais's request for paternity in its analysis
of L.Z.N.'s best interest.
7] Narvais further argues the district court improperly used
his requirement to register upon his release from prison
against him. He asserts his requirement to register is not
harmful to him and therefore, cannot be considered harmful
toward his child. Other states have disagreed, instead
finding the social stigma associated with sex offenders is
relevant in a name change determination. Toepfer v.
Meador, 2016 WL 4171452 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2016);
Cothron v. Hadley, 769 So.2d 1148 (Fla. Dist. Ct.
App. 2000). More generally, other states have found the
chance of the child being susceptible to harassment or
embarrassment because of his or her surname to be a relevant
factor. Applicati ...