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A mother’s argument that her daughter should have her boyfriend’s last name because she planned to marry and have children with him was not enough to convince a judge that the baby should not assume her natural father’s surname. Fulton County, Pa., Common Pleas Court Judge Carol Van Horn granted biological father Michael Sanders’ name change petition in Sanders v. Funk, PICS Case No. 00-0859 (C.P. Fulton April 28, 2000) Van Horn, J., ruling that it was not proper for his daughter Kaitlyn to have the last name of her mother’s boyfriend, Jason Ramsey. “It is this court’s judgment that Kaitlyn should not have the surname of a person who is unrelated to her in any manner and that to continue her surname of Ramsey is misleading to her as well as the public since Mr. Ramsey has absolutely no legal relationship to the child,” Van Horn said. Kaitlyn’s mother, Naomi Funk, met Sanders while they were students at Juniata College. In the fall of 1998, she told Sanders she was pregnant and shortly thereafter left school to return home without telling him. Before Funk left, Sanders had accompanied her to one of her doctor’s appointments. Only a short time after she returned to her home in the McConnellsburg, Pa., area, Funk resumed a relationship with Jason Ramsey, whom she had known for seven years. They began living together in May 1999. Ramsey supported Funk throughout her pregnancy and even had reason to believe he might be the biological father. When Kaitlyn was born, Ramsey signed an acknowledgement of paternity. Since Kaitlyn’s birth, Funk and Ramsey have built their own home, started a business together and are hoping to marry, Van Horn said. Funk said she did not want to change Kaitlyn’s name because she and Ramsey planned to have children together in the future who would have the Ramsey name and because certain keepsake items from the child’s birth bore a monogram with her last initial as “R.” Van Horn said the record was unclear as to how much contact there had been between Sanders and Funk during the pregnancy, but Funk testified Sanders had called her “a few times.” Funk also said she was not sure if Sanders would be involved in Kaitlyn’s life. Sanders obtained legal counsel to help gain custody rights in the fall of 1999. He sent letters through his attorney to Funk at her parents’ home informing her that he wanted to be involved with the birth of his child and that he wanted the baby to have his surname. Funk’s parents chose not to give her the letters until after Kaitlyn was born because they didn’t want to upset her, Van Horn said. Sanders received correspondences from Funk’s attorney telling him Funk was denying his paternity and Ramsey had assumed the parental role. Paternity testing eventually proved Sanders was the father. Sanders secured a custody order granting him visitation each Sunday, but he said he wanted more time with his daughter. Funk testified she expected Kaitlyn would have more time with Sanders when she was finished nursing. Van Horn said the name change statute, 54 Pa. C.S.A. Section 702, does not provide any guidelines for trial court judges. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has said in Petition of Falcucci, 592 50 A.2d 200 (1947), that name-change petitions should be reviewed in a manner “to comport with good sense, common decency and fairness to all concerned and to the public.” Funk cited a Pennsylvania Superior Court case, Petition of Schidlmeier, 496 A.2d 1249 (1985), in which the child at issue was born in wedlock, but after the couple had separated. The mother gave the child her own last name, which was different from the father’s. The father’s petition to change the child’s surname to his own was denied, but Van Horn said the case was not on point with Funk’s. “This case is certainly distinguishable since the critical factor in the case before the court for decision is that Kaitlyn’s surname is that of her mother’s boyfriend and Kaitlyn does not bear the surname of either her mother or father,” Van Horn said. “While the court does not doubt the testimony of [Funk] and [Ramsey] as to their plans at this time, there is no proven commitment of the two through marriage and the court is troubled by Kaitlyn bearing the Ramsey surname when her mother has not taken steps through marriage to change her own surname to that of ‘Ramsey.’” Sanders took all the appropriate steps to prove his commitment to being a father for Kaitlyn, Van Horn said, even before the child was born. “The court must also consider the natural bond that exists between Michael and Kaitlyn, and the child’s right to feel connected to her biological parent by the sharing of a surname as being in her best interest,” she said.

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