Posted on : February 13, 2017, By: Christopher Hildebrand
Changing a Child’s Surname in Arizona
In Arizona in yesteryear, a father had a protected interest in his child having his last name. Is this still the law in Arizona despite the arrival of parenting equality? Does it matter if the child is born to two parents who were not married to each other? In Pizziconi v. Yarbrough, 868 P.2d 1005 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1993), the Arizona Court of Appeals discussed these issues.
Facts of the Case
Mr. Pizziconi and Mrs. Yarbrough are the natural parents of a child who was born in 1986. They never married each other. Mrs. Yarbrough married someone else who was interested in adopting the child. This caused Mr. Pizziconi to file a paternity suit and ask that the child carry his surname.
Mrs. Yarbrough opposed this. She requested the court to order Mr. Pizziconi to pay the birth costs as well as back child support. The court denied Mr. Pizziconi’s request that the child has his surname. The judge ruled that the child’s name should be “Yarbrough.” This was Mrs. Yarbrough’s name, her former husband’s name and the name of their other child.
The judge also ordered Mr. Pizziconi to pay overdue child support of $6,959.00, monthly child support of $307.00, and Mrs. Yarbrough’s attorney’s fees. Mr. Pizziconi appeals.
Jennifer, thank you for being my attorney. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of my family court hearing. Everything you have done for me throughout this case reflects in the final ruling of the judge. You helped me keep my head together and taught me a lot about myself as a person. I learned so much about my life from observing and listening to you. I will take all the advice you gave me to continue taking responsibility for my choices, continue to put the kids' needs first, and always stay truthful. Your diligence, dedication, and persistence in my case made what seemed impossible, possible. You are a wonderful person and an amazing attorney and I am stronger and more confident because of you.
I just want to again thank the Firm for working with me all that it has. I could not have done anything without everyone's assistance. You, Chris and Stacey have been and continue to provide me with compassion and hard work towards my case. Also a very special thanks to Kip for taking my case in the beginning. Also continued support from him and his dedication to providing me with his expertise in this matter.
After interviewing several law firms, I came across Jennifer Shick, and her firm, who I hired to represent me for my Family Court case. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the law and is determined to bring the truth to every issue involved within the case. Throughout my case, Jennifer was prepared meticulously as well as went above and beyond all of my expectations. Even when the other party tried to differ from the truth, lie to the Judge, and turn situations around, Jennifer remained attentive and provided substantial evidence to show the judge the facts as well as the proof to support what was the best interests of my children. Additionally, Jennifer helped me endure many difficult experiences, situations and inspired me to remain positive throughout the entirety of my case. Her kindness, compassion, and professionalism helped me through very difficult times and made the process feel a thousand times lighter on my shoulders. She truly has my children and my best interest at heart and I trust her perspective as well as her honesty on each and every aspect of my case. She lessened the burden on my shoulders and even when I felt like the case was not going to go in my favor, Jennifer was open-minded and reassured me that the Judge would, in fact, see the truth, which he did and the case went in my favor. After nine months of court, everything finally came together. I cannot declare how much Jennifer has been an outstanding attorney. She addressed each and every issue with diligence, she cares about her clients and their families. Jennifer genuinely cares about her clients and her dedication to the details of the case was remarkable. Overall, I am extremely pleased with Jennifer’s services and I am truly thankful that I was so blessed to have her represent my children and me. I highly recommend Jennifer as one of the best attorneys in Arizona and if the situation ever arises, I will definitely have her represent my children and me again.
Dear Stacey and Kip, How can I ever thank you enough for helping me through the most difficult time in my life? I couldn't put into words my heartfelt gratefulness. You both were so compassionate and professional at every given moment throughout this process with me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You helped me to regain my freedom.
I was a client of Attorney Kevin Park for the dissolution of a divorce in 2016. And since I had never had the need to hire an attorney before for any purpose, I was somewhat apprehensive of the process. But the very calm and professional demeanor of Mr. Park eased my fears. He adeptly answered all my questions and I clearly knew the process and what to expect. And the skilled manner he communicated with opposing counsel was perfect. When it came down to negotiating with my spouse’s counsel, I knew I had selected the best attorney for my situation. What I noticed and appreciated was that he was using just the right amount of pressure with opposing counsel as was necessary. If you find yourself in this situation, you will want a seasoned professional like Mr. Park on your side. I'm very grateful that he was my attorney and not the opposition!
Chris is a smart and aggressive attorney for his clients. Chris always tries to reach a fair settlement of his cases. I’ve represented clients when Chris was the opposing counsel and while he is professional and amicable to work with, he does not back off on what he needs to do for his client
Kevin Park of Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys was just what I needed for my divorce. He was very approachable and personable. He was quick to recognize what I needed and provided it quickly and efficiently. I hope to never need a divorce lawyer again, but if I know anyone else who does, I will definitely recommend Kevin.
I feel that Tracey Van Wickler is certainly one of the best family lawyers around. She is logical, intelligent, and truly cares. Tracey always does what is in the clients best interest, does it well, timely and with integrity. She is good at keeping her clients informed as to what is going on and clear in her communication both written and verbally. I have recommended Tracey to other people and will continue to recommend her. I recommended Tracey to someone who was having issues with their ex-wife and his response was, “I know how good she is because I went up against her and she ate me for lunch”. This same person was so impressed with her, he even recommended her to someone else, WOW, that is impressive! I am exceptionally happy with her attention to detail, her ability to explain things in ways that are easy to understand, as well as her ability to keep everyone focused on the most important things. I would recommend Tracey to anyone who may be in need of her services.
I retained Hildebrand Law after interview a number of firms in the valley. Working with Michael C. was incredibly easy and informative. My case progressed in such a organized and thought out way to ensure that my needs were met. Michael was incredibly proactive and was able to see far ahead into my case to steer clear of some roadblocks. I would not hesitate to recommend Michael Clancy, and Hildebrand Law in general, to anyone.
I have worked with Hildebrand law for about 8 years. They are always ready to serve, provide guidance and give you a few options. When they provide you options they also take the time to walk you through the pros and cons of each and give you a recommendation of what is best, but will listen to you and support whatever course you choose after making and educated choice. I’d recommend them to my closest friends and feel Chris Hildebrand is now a friend to me.
Despite the unfortunate situation I found myself in, Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law helped me maneuver every step with professionalism, expertise, and even a sensitivity that was an added bonus.Chris and his staff helped me even when I didn't know I needed the help. In other words. . . they made sure we did not leave anything undone. And in the rare instance we needed the expertise of another professional, Chris knew exactly who to recommend.Chris also knew, because of his experience, what to anticipate down the road of litigation. That meant we were better prepared to meet the challenges head on, which lead to a more equitable and fair outcome. I appreciated that Chris did his best to meet my every need in a timely fashion, even if I had a simple question that required only a phone call or e-mail or if we needed to talk face-to-face.I highly recommend Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law, PC.
Mr. Pizziconi argues that both he and the child have a protected interest in having the child bear his last name. He relies primarily on the case of Laks v. Laks, 540 P.2d 1277 (1975). In that case, a mother changed her children’s surnames after a divorce. She had them use the father’s and her surname hyphenated.
The Laks court ordered that the paternal surname is reinstated since the “usual custom” gives a father a protectable interest in the child’s last name. The court observed that the bond between a child and its noncustodial father could be weakened if the child’s names were changed.
However, unlike the facts in the Laks case, the child in this case never bore Mr. Pizziconi’s surname. He initially said he did not wish to be involved with the child. Under Arizona law, an unmarried mother may not use the putative father’s name on the birth certificate without his consent.
Also, while a father has a protectable interest based on the custom of giving legitimate children their father’s surname, Mr. Pizziconi never married Mrs. Yarbrough. For children born out of wedlock, the custom is for the child to assume the mother’s name.
The Court noted that today a mother’s interest in surnames is as high as a father’s. Society has recognized parental equality. Therefore, it is not a given that the child of unmarried parents should bear the father’s surname.
Mr. Pizziconi asks that the issue is remanded to the trial court to consider specific factors bearing on whether it is in the child’s best interest for the surname to be changed. No Arizona statute or case requires express findings on this issue. The Court of Appeals assumed that the trial court found every controverted issue of fact necessary to sustain its decision. There is sufficient evidence to support the inferential finding that a change of name was not in the child’s best interest.
The Child had used the name “Yarbrough” for four years. Her half-brother uses that name, and Mrs. Yarbrough also uses it.
Past Child Support
The trial judge used the Arizona Child Support Guidelines to compute the amount due. Mr. Pizziconi argued that the case should be remanded for a determination of the sum Mrs. Yarbrough spent on the child during that period.
Except for evidence of the expenses of birth and health care, Mrs. Yarbrough never testified in detail regarding what she spent on the child. She did testify that she had borne all the expenses dating from the birth of the child. The child lived with her continuously, except for occasional visits with Mr. Pizziconi.
The affidavits detailing income and expenses as well as tax returns were admitted in evidence. The amounts awarded as back child support match the amounts calculated as Mr. Pizziconi’s obligation under the Guidelines. The trial judge did give Mr. Pizziconi credit for $10,000 which he paid for the Child’s support over those years.
The Court of Appeals determined that the lower court’s method of determining past child support was appropriate. The Guidelines are an estimate of the cost of child support which takes into account the financial circumstances of the parents.
Here, the trial judge had information about the Parents’ income and expenses. A natural father is legally obligated to support his child. An action for support can be brought at any time during a child’s minority. Neither laches nor estoppel bars a claim for child support absent prejudice. The trial judge correctly inferred that Mr. Pizziconi had not suffered sufficient prejudice from the delay to bring laches or estoppel into play.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the orders of the trial court.