In Sacklow v. Betts, the first case of its kind in the state, a New Jersey Superior Court judge permitted a 16-year-old transgender individual to legally change his name from Veronica to Trevor. Initially a hearing was held due to the fact that Trevor’s parents disagreed on whether he should be granted the name change, however, the Father ultimately consented. Despite obtaining the Father’s consent, the Judge required a hearing on the request and ultimately ruled that it is the “best interest of the child” standard which shall decide an issue even if both parent’s consented to the name change.
In conducting the hearing, the Judge took testimony from both parents, but also the child himself whom was always a good kid and whose behavior took a downward spiral in his 6th grade year as he began struggling immensely with respect to his identity. Trevor testified that he had never identified as a girl, did not like girl toys, dolls, nor did he feel comfortable dressing like a girl and it was around 6th grade that he realized he was a transgender child through counseling his parents had enrolled him in to address his inward and now outward struggles. Trevor testified that he would soon be turning seventeen and the idea of a driver’s license photo that did not “match” his name caused him significant stress. Lastly, the Court noted that Trevor presented as a young man with facial hair, a muscular build, and a deeper voice.
After hearing the testimony from Trevor as well as his parents who now both consented to the requested name change, the Court applied the “best interests” standard and found that to force Trevor to legally keep the feminine name “Veronica” would not be in his best interest. In addressing Trevor’s best interests, the Court recognized that a name change sends an important message to the world, and that New Jersey has a “compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.” N.J.S.A. 45:1-54(n). The court then set forth the factors that should be considered in determining whether a name change is in a 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:
The age of the child;
The length of time the child has used the preferred name;
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;
The history of any medical or mental health counseling the child has received;
The name the child is known by in his or her family, school and community;
The child’s preference and motivations for seeking the name change; and
Whether both parents consent to the name change, and if consent is not given, the reason for withholding consent.This case is part of an evolving area of law and will no doubt be expanded upon in future cases and as societal standards and acceptance of the issues continue to grow. The attorneys at Kearney & Martone have been successful in helping LGBT families with various legal issues, and we provide compassionate and caring support to every client and we will continue to do in the future. Contact us online or call 856-547-7733 today to arrange a consultation with an experienced South Jersey family lawyer.