Friday, April 10, 2020
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Fifth District Court of Appeal has upheld an order changing the surname of a girl, age 2½, who lives with her mother in Kansas, to that of the man who fathered her outside of marriage and resides in California.
The mother, Courtney Clayton—who formerly resided in California—has sole custody and the father, Gabriel Sierra Montejano, holds visitation rights.
Clayton named the child, whose birth certificate reflects the surname, “Clayton.” In early 2018, within five months of the girl’s birth, Montejano filed a petition in the Tulare Superior Court to change the surname to “Sierra.”
A retired judge of that court, Glade F. Roper, sitting on assignment, granted the petition, over the protest of the mother. Clayton appealed.
Wednesday’s “By the Court” opinion—signed by Acting Presiding Justice Herbert I. Levy and Justices Rosendo Pena Jr. and Jennifer R.S. Detjen—says:
“The record demonstrates the court considered and weighed several factors, including the short duration the child possessed the ‘Clayton’ surname; Mother’s status as the custodial parent; Mother’s and the child’s out-of-state relocation to live with maternal family; Father’s desire to somehow be ‘part of’ the child’s life; and Father’s infrequent opportunities to visit the child. Given these circumstances, the court could reasonably conclude that replacing ‘Clayton’ with ‘Sierra’ as the child’s surname would help bolster the child’s tenuous connection with Father.”
The opinion continues:
“Mother acknowledged the significance a name may impart, having testified she specifically gave the child a middle name related to the maternal family’s [Greek] heritage. Although Mother expressed concerns the surname change could lead to the child’s ‘embarrassment and discomfort of having a different name than the rest of the family unit,’ the court noted ‘[i]n today’s society it is not at all unusual for a child to have a different surname than her mother’ and ‘[h]istorically, grandchildren almost always had a different surname than their maternal grandparents.’ Substantial evidence supports the judgment in Father’s favor.”
Costs on appeal were awarded to Montejano though he made no appearance.
The case is Montejano v. Clayton, F078110.
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