Morris by Cope v. Morris, No. WD

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtSPINDEN
Citation926 S.W.2d 87
PartiesWesley J. MORRIS, by his next friend Cassandra COPE, and Cassandra Cope, Appellants, v. Troi Gilpin MORRIS, Respondent. 51220.
Docket NumberNo. WD
Decision Date14 May 1996

Page 87

926 S.W.2d 87
Wesley J. MORRIS, by his next friend Cassandra COPE, and
Cassandra Cope, Appellants,
v.
Troi Gilpin MORRIS, Respondent.
No. WD 51220.
Missouri Court of Appeals,
Western District.
May 14, 1996.
Motion for Rehearing and/or Transfer to
Supreme Court Denied July 2, 1996.
Application to Transfer Denied
Aug. 20, 1996.

Page 88

Paul Graham, Columbia, for appellants.

Marilyn Gaeth, Columbia, for respondent.

Before SPINDEN, P.J., and SMART and LAURA DENVIR STITH, JJ.

SPINDEN, Presiding Judge.

Cassandra Cope, the unmarried mother of Wesley J. Morris, complains to us that the circuit court refused to change her son's surname. She was living with the boy's father, Troi Gilpin Morris, when the boy was born on September 29, 1993, and she gave him his father's surname. After they quit living together, Cope decided to change her son's surname to either Cope-Morris or Morris-Cope. Troi Morris did not consent to the change.

The circuit court's refusal to change the boy's name is the only issue Cope appeals from the circuit's order of May 15, 1995, adopting the findings and recommendations of a family court commissioner concerning custody and child support. She contends that the circuit court had no evidence to support a conclusion that the proposed name change would be detrimental to her son or to anyone else. She argues that the circuit court's discretion in the matter was "narrow," and she asks us to reverse the circuit court's judgment for abusing its discretion and to declare that the name change is proper as a matter of law.

Cope acknowledges that the circuit court has discretion to deny a petition for a name change. The issue is how much.

In R.K.-T.S. by V.T. v. R.S., 819 S.W.2d 749, 750 (Mo.App.1991), involving a proposed name change for an illegitimate child, this court said:

The trial court's scope of discretion to deny a child's name change petition is narrow since Missouri law favors the ability of the individual, including a child, to legally change his name.... Missouri law provides little direction with regard to what factors are to be considered when contemplating a name change for a minor child.

This court, however, later said, in Cobb by Webb v. Cobb, 844 S.W.2d 7, 9 (Mo.App.1992), "The trial court has wide discretion and should be guided by what is in the best interest of an illegitimate child[.] ... Neither parent has an absolute right for an illegitimate child to bear that parent's surname." 1

Endeavoring to resolve the apparent conflict, we look back to the first case to declare that the court's discretion is "narrow," In the Matter of Natale, 527 S.W.2d 402 (Mo.App.1975). In that case, this court's Eastern District considered an adult petitioner wanting to change her name while she was still married. It declared, "The scope of discretion to deny a petition for change of name is narrow." Id. at 405.

The first case declaring the courts' discretion in considering a child's name change was Kirksey v. Abbott, 591 S.W.2d 751, 752 (Mo.App.1979). In this paternity action, the court said, "While there is a paucity of precedent on this question, it is apparent that the court has wide discretion and should be guided by what is in the best interests of the child. Neither parent has an absolute right for the child to bear his or her name." 2 The Kirksey court did not cite or otherwise...

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4 practice notes
  • G.J.R.B. ex rel. R.J.K. v. J.K.B., No. 28460.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 14, 2008
    ...of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration'" on the part of the trial court. Id. (quoting Morris by Cope v. Morris, 926 S.W.2d 87, 89 The burden of proving to the court that the desired name change is in the child's best interests rests with the parent seeking to change th......
  • Wright v. Buttercase, No. WD 67861.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • January 15, 2007
    ...and unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration.'" Morris by Cope v. Morris, 926 S.W.2d 87, 89 (Mo.App.1996) (quoting State ex rel Webster v. Lehndorf Geneva, Inc. 744 s.W.2d 801, 804 (Mo. banc 1988)). "[I]f reasonable men can differ ......
  • Jenkins v. Austin, No. WD 68302.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 20, 2008
    ...unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration.'" Id. (quoting Morris by Cope v. Morris, 926 S.W.2d 87, 89 (Mo.App. W.D. 1996)). "The parent seeking to change the child's name bears the burden of proving the name change is in the child's......
  • Halverson ex rel. Sumners v. Halverson, No. SD 31174.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 12, 2012
    ...arbitrary and unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration[.]’ ” Morris by Cope v. Morris, 926 S.W.2d 87, 89 (Mo.App. W.D.1996) (quoting State ex rel Webster v. Lehndorff Geneva, Inc., 744 S.W.2d 801, 804 (Mo. banc 1988)). “On appeal, this Court......
4 cases
  • G.J.R.B. ex rel. R.J.K. v. J.K.B., No. 28460.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 14, 2008
    ...of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration'" on the part of the trial court. Id. (quoting Morris by Cope v. Morris, 926 S.W.2d 87, 89 The burden of proving to the court that the desired name change is in the child's best interests rests with the parent seeking to change th......
  • Wright v. Buttercase, No. WD 67861.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • January 15, 2007
    ...and unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration.'" Morris by Cope v. Morris, 926 S.W.2d 87, 89 (Mo.App.1996) (quoting State ex rel Webster v. Lehndorf Geneva, Inc. 744 s.W.2d 801, 804 (Mo. banc 1988)). "[I]f reasonable men can differ ......
  • Jenkins v. Austin, No. WD 68302.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 20, 2008
    ...unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration.'" Id. (quoting Morris by Cope v. Morris, 926 S.W.2d 87, 89 (Mo.App. W.D. 1996)). "The parent seeking to change the child's name bears the burden of proving the name change is in the child's......
  • Halverson ex rel. Sumners v. Halverson, No. SD 31174.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 12, 2012
    ...arbitrary and unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration[.]’ ” Morris by Cope v. Morris, 926 S.W.2d 87, 89 (Mo.App. W.D.1996) (quoting State ex rel Webster v. Lehndorff Geneva, Inc., 744 S.W.2d 801, 804 (Mo. banc 1988)). “On appeal, this Court......

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