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Sacklow v. Betts

Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Middlesex

March 17, 2017

JANET SACKLOW, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD BETTS, Defendant.

          APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION DATE JUNE 28, 2017

          Jennifer Weisberg Millner for plaintiff (Fox Rothschild LLP, attorneys).

          Richard Betts, defendant, pro se.

          SILVA, J.S.C.

         The matter before this court is one of first impression in this state. Plaintiff has petitioned this court to change the parties' sixteen-year-old transgender child's name from Veronica Betts to Trevor Adam Betts.[1] The question facing this court is the standard to apply and which factors the court should consider. As more fully explained herein, the court finds that the best interest of the child standard should govern the court's decision and that the following factors should be considered when determining whether a name change is in the minor child's best interest, where the minor child is transgender and wishes to assume a name they believe corresponds to the gender they identify with:

(1) The age of the child;
(2) The length of time the child has used the preferred name;
(3) Any potential anxiety, embarrassment or discomfort that may result from the child having a name he or she believes does not match his or her outward appearance and gender identity;
(4) The history of any medical or mental health counseling the child has received;
(5) The name the child is known by in his or her family, school and community;
(6) The child's preference and motivations for seeking the name change;
(7) Whether both parents consent to the name change, and if consent is not given, the reason for withholding consent.

         I. Procedure to Change a Minor's Name

         The application for a minor's name change implicates various procedural requirements. First, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:52-1 and Rule 4:72-1(a), an application to change a minor's name shall be commenced by filing a verified complaint setting forth the grounds for the application.

         The complaint shall contain the date of birth of the minor child and shall state:

(1) That the application is not made with the intent to avoid creditors or to obstruct delinquency prosecution or for other fraudulent purposes;
(2) Whether the minor child has ever been convicted of delinquency and if so, the nature of the delinquent behavior and the sentence imposed; and
(3) Whether any delinquency charges are pending against the child and if so, such detail regarding the charges as is reasonably necessary to enable the Division of Criminal Justice or the appropriate county prosecutor to identify the matter.
[R. 4:72-1(a).]

         Additionally, if the minor is involved in a family action, "the complaint shall state whether the child or any party in interest . . . is the subject of a family action pending or concluded within the three years preceding the filing of the complaint." R. 4:72-1(b). The court finds that plaintiff's verified complaint satisfied the requirements of N.J.S.A. 2A:52-1, Rule 4:72-1(a), and Rule 4:72-1(b). It is uncontested that Trevor is not doing this with the purpose to defraud creditors or avoid criminal prosecution nor has Trevor ever been involved with the criminal justice system.

         II. Standard of Review On An Application to Change a ...


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