WV Supreme Court justice challenges name change laws in dissent

By: Kate White, via West Virginia Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia law governing name changes is outdated and reflects sexist attitudes, according to a state Supreme Court justice.

In a dissenting opinion filed May 21, Justice Margaret Workman outlined her views and took her colleagues to task for relying on outdated traditional values and Anglo-American customs.

The court’s majority opinion reversed a ruling by Monongalia Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot, granting a petition allowing a woman to hyphenate her daughter’s surname.

Relying on cases dating back to 1977, the court overturned the case saying the woman failed to provide clear and convincing evidence the change would benefit her daughter.

“… the name of a minor child cannot be changed from that of the father unless … by clear, cogent and convincing evidence it is shown that such change will significantly advance the best interests of the child,” the court wrote reaffirming the 1977 decision.

Workman challenges that rule, pointing out that the requirement of clear and convincing evidence is rarely applied to cases where constitutional or property rights aren’t involved.

Citing cases from other states, Workman wrote, “our precedents are outmoded and completely unmoored from what should be the focus in these cases: the best interests of the child, taking into account the realities of the child’s living circumstances.”

Read the rest of the article herehttp://www.wvgazette.com/News/201306010018?page=1

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