When can a transgender minor change theirname to reflect their accurate gender? A recently issued opinion by the New Jersey courts offers guidance to transgender children and their families.
In Sacklow v. Betts, at issue was the requested name change of a 16 year old child, born female and named Veronica. Because Veronica is a minor, her mother petitioned the court on her behalf, asking that Veronica be permitted to change her name to Trevor Adam Betts. The usual standard that the court would apply in a name change of a minor is whether or not changing the child’s name is in his or her best interests. There are many cases that use this standard. But, the courts had not yet addressed a transgender name change in the context of a transgender minor and while the court did agree that their decision must be based on the child’s best interests, the older cases did not give them enough specific guidance.
The court heard from Trevor’s mom, dad and Trevor himself. Trevor’s mother told the court that it was in her child’s best interests to change his name, but Trevor’s father opposed the name change. The court decided that the parents’ consent, or lack thereof, was only one factor they should consider. Since the age of twelve, Trevor began asking to be known as Trevor rather than Veronica and had, with the help of his therapist, told his family that he was transgender. He began working with various medical professionals to help him transition. Trevor told the court that now the only people who still call him “Veronica” are his dad, his stepmother and his step-siblings. He tesitifed that he feels that the name better represents who he is.
In making its decision, the court used some factors already contained in the prior cases but tailored them a bit for this case. Here, the court looked at Trevor’s age, how long he used his chosen name, any potential anxiety or embarrassment he feels from having a name that does not correspond with his identity, the history of his medical treatment, whether his family and community call him Trevor, Trevor’s own preference and, finally, parental consent. Interestingly, after Trevor was questioned by the court and his father testified, it seemed as though his father changed his mind and consented to the name change.
The court acknowledged that whether or not Trevor would be subject to any anxiety, harassment or embarrassment if the name change was not permitted was the most compelling factor for the court to consider. The court indicated, “the fear that Trevor will be bullied or harassed if his name is not changed from Veronica to Trevor is supported by the myriad studies demonstrating that transgender youth are bullied and harassed at an alarming rate.”
After taking all of the facts and circumstances surrounding Trevor and his family into account, including what the court believed to be in his best interests, it was decided that Trevor would be permitted to legally change his name and assume the name of Trevor Adam. The court noted, “To force him to keep the feminine name “Veronica” would not be in his best interests.”
Do you have a child who is seeking a name change? For answers to your name change questions or any other family law issue, contact us today to schedule your confidential consultation with one of our experienced and compassionate family law attorneys. Take the first step! Call us today at 888-888-0919.