CHUUK STATE SUPREME COURT TRIAL DIVISION
Cite as In re Suda
11 FSM Intrm. 564 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003)
 
[11 FSM Intrm. 564]
 
IN THE MATTER TO CHANGE THE LAST NAME
AND MIDDLE NAME OF ANTASIA A. SUDA
ANTASIA A. SUDA,
Petitioner.
 
MEMORANDUM AND DECISION
 
CSSC-CA-NO. 244-2002
 
Keske S. Marar
Associate Justice
 
Decided: March 27, 2003

APPEARANCE:

For the Petitioner: Antasia A. Suda, pro se

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HEADNOTES

Attorney, Trial Counselor and Client
     The practice of attorneys or trial counselors "ghost drafting" legal documents should, wherever possible, be strongly discouraged. In re Suda, 11 FSM Intrm. 564, 566 n.1 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003).
 
Custom and Tradition ) Chuuk; Names
     The court is unaware of any tradition or custom within Chuukese society for a child, or even an adult, to carry the last name of his or her step-father or step-mother, and finds and concludes that no such tradition or custom exists. In re Suda, 11 FSM Intrm. 564, 566 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003).
 
Common Law ; Names
     At common law, a person is free to adopt and use any name he or she chooses, so long as there is no fraudulent purpose, and the name does not infringe on the rights of others. In re Suda, 11 FSM Intrm. 564, 566 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003).
 
Common Law ; Names
     The right to assume any name, absent fraud or infringement of the rights of others, operates at common law independently of any court order. In the absence of a statute to the contrary, any person may ordinarily change his name at will, without any legal proceedings, merely by adopting another name. In re Suda, 11 FSM Intrm. 564, 566 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003).
 
Names
     The lack of statutory procedures for name changes in Chuuk has led to a great variety of allegations in petitions for change of name, such as incorrect allegations regarding Chuukese tradition and custom. It is clearly more preferable that the Legislature act to provide statutory requirements for name change petitions. In the absence of such statutory regulation, it is prudent for the court to establish minimum requirements for name change petitions in Chuuk. In re Suda, 11 FSM Intrm. 564,
 
[11 FSM Intrm. 565]
 
566 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003).
 
Names
     A petition for change of name must include: 1) the petitioners current name and place of residence; 2) the petitioners birth date and age, and place of birth; 3) the petitioners citizenship, unless the petitioner is an FSM citizen; 4) the petitioners marital status; 5) the names and ages of petitioners children, if any; 6) a statement as to the absence or status of petitioners criminal record; 7) a statement regarding the absence or existence of petitioners status as a debtor, including the names and addresses of petitioners creditors, if any; 8) the petitioners proposed name, and a brief statement of the reasons, if any, for the requested name change; and 9) in the case of a petition for change of name of a minor child, parental consent to the change of name. The petition must contain a prayer for change of name, be signed by the petitioner or the petitioners attorney or trial counselor, and the petition must be verified. In addition to these minimum requirements, the petitioner must give the general public notice of the petition sufficient to permit those who might object to appear and make written objection. In re Suda, 11 FSM Intrm. 564, 567 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003).
 
Names
     Given the difficulties of notice in Chuuk, for any petition for name change filed with the Chuuk State Supreme Court, the Clerk of the Court will prepare a radio announcement to be read on V6AK radio, containing the petitioners name, the date the petition was filed, and requiring any objections to the name change to be filed with the court within four (4) weeks of the petitions filing date. In re Suda, 11 FSM Intrm. 564, 567 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003).
 
Civil Procedure ; Names
     No hearing on a name change petition will normally be required, unless objections to the petition are properly filed with the court within the time period required. If objections are filed, the court will schedule a hearing at the earliest possible opportunity, and the Clerk of the Court shall give notice of the hearing by the best means available to apprize the objectors of the hearings date and time. In the absence of objection, and upon confirmation that the name change petition contains all necessary information, the court will grant the petition without hearing, and will give notice to the petitioner that the petition has been granted. In re Suda, 11 FSM Intrm. 564, 567 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003).
 
Names
     The court would prefer that the Chuuk Legislature adopt statutory procedures for name change petitions, as well as petitions for adoption and other matters involving family status. Name change petitions must contain the court-required minimum provisions only so long as the Legislature chooses not to enact a statutory scheme for such matters. In re Suda, 11 FSM Intrm. 564, 567 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003).

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COURTS OPINION

KESKE S. MARAR, Associate Justice:

I. Introduction

     This matter comes before the Court on the petition of Antasia A. Suda seeking court approval to change her middle and last names. The grounds for the petition are that Petitioners natural father is deceased, that her natural mother has remarried, and that her natural mothers new husband has been the sole support of the Petitioner since the remarriage of her natural mother.

[11 FSM Intrm. 566]

     In addition to the allegations establishing the facts set forth above, the petition, filed by the Petitioner pro se1 , alleges "It is a traditional custom for a child, or even an adult, to carry the last name of his or her step-father or step-mother."

     This Court is unaware of any such tradition or custom within Chuukese society, and finds and concludes that no such tradition or custom exists. The falsity of this allegation, which seriously disturbs the Court, together with the absence of any statutory scheme setting forth the necessary minimum requirements for a petition for change of name in Chuuk State, compel the Court to issue this memorandum opinion setting forth the minimum requirements necessary for a petition for change of name submitted for decision to the Chuuk State Supreme Court.

II. Discussion

A. Common law rules regarding name change.

     At common law, a person is free to adopt and use any name he or she chooses, so long as there is no fraudulent purpose, and the name does not infringe on the rights of others. The right to assume any name, absent fraud or infringement of the rights of others, operates at common law independently of any court order. "In the absence of a statute to the contrary, any person may ordinarily change his name at will, without any legal proceedings, merely by adopting another name." 57 Am. Jur. 2d Name  16 (1988).

B. Rules in the absence of statutory provisions.

     Many jurisdictions have statutory provisions which set forth the procedures to be followed, and the evidence to be established, where the change of a given name is sought. The lack of such statutory procedures in Chuuk State has led to a great variety of allegations in petitions for change of name, such as the incorrect allegation in this case regarding Chuukese tradition and custom. It is clearly more preferable that the Legislature act to provide statutory requirements for petitions for change of name. In the absence of such statutory regulation, it is prudent for the Court to review the requirements in other jurisdictions, and to establish minimum requirements for petitions for change of name in Chuuk State.

     Most statutory schemes have certain similar minimum requirements. Thus, statutes require the party seeking a name change to make written application to a court of competent jurisdiction, signed by the applicant, and setting forth the current name, date and place of birth, age and residence of the person seeking a name change. The petition must normally be verified in like manner as a pleading in the court applied to. 57 Am. Jur. 2d Name  18 (1988).

     In addition to this information, many jurisdictions impose other requirements, including citizenship, names and addresses of the petitioners parents and nearest living relatives, the petitioners marital status, names and ages of children of the petitioner, if any, and a clear and unequivocal statement of the petitioner regarding any debts of the petitioner which remain unpaid, and whether the petitioner has been convicted of a felony or filed for bankruptcy. Id.  18, 19.

[11 FSM Intrm. 567]

     In addition to the information required to be included in the petition, virtually all jurisdictions require some form of notice to the general public that the petitioner is seeking to change his or her name. Id.  20. It is also often required that a hearing be held, if any objections to the change of name are received in response to the notice, so that the court has sufficient evidence to determine, in its discretion, whether there is any valid objection which would preclude an order granting the petition. Id.  21.

C. Minimum requirements for name change in Chuuk State.

     The Court, having reviewed the general requirements for a change of name under common law, and having reviewed the treatise referred to herein regarding the usual statutory requirements in jurisdictions with a statutory scheme, concludes that certain minimum requirements must be met in any future petition for name change submitted to the Chuuk State Supreme Court for approval.

     A petition for change of name must include: (1) the petitioners current name and place of residence; (2) the petitioners birth date and age, and place of birth; (3) the petitioners citizenship, unless the petitioner is a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia; (4) the petitioners marital status; (5) the names and ages of petitioners children, if any; (6) a statement as to the absence or status of petitioners criminal record; (7) a statement regarding the absence or existence of petitioners status as a debtor, including the names and addresses of petitioners creditors, if any; (8) the petitioners proposed name, and a brief statement of the reasons, if any, for the requested name change; and (9) in the case of a petition for change of name of a minor child, parental consent to the change of name.

     The petition must contain a prayer for change of name, be signed by the petitioner or the attorney or trial counselor for the petitioner, and the petition must be verified.

     In addition to these minimum requirements which must be included in any petition for change of name, the petitioner must give notice to the general public of the petition, sufficient to permit those who might object to appear and make written objection. Given the difficulties of notice in Chuuk State, it is ordered that for any petition for name change filed with the Chuuk State Supreme Court, the Clerk of the Court shall prepare a radio announcement to be read on V6AK radio, containing the name of the petitioner, the date the petition was filed, and requiring any objections to the name change to be filed with the Court not later than four (4) weeks from the date of filing of the petition.

     No hearing on the petition shall normally be required, unless objections to the petition are properly filed with the Court within the time period required. In the event that objections are filed, the Court shall schedule a hearing at the earliest possible opportunity, and the Clerk of the Court shall give notice of the hearing by the best means available to apprize the objectors of the date and time of the hearing. This may be by written notice of hearing served on the objector or his or her counsel of record, or by radio announcement on V6AK radio, or both. In the absence of objection, and upon confirmation that the petition contains all necessary information, the Court shall grant the petition without hearing, and shall give notice to the petitioner that the petition has been granted.

     It is of course preferable that the Chuuk State Legislature adopt statutory procedures for petitions for name change, as well as petitions for adoption and other matters involving family status. This Court would prefer such action, and wishes to make clear that petitions for change of name shall contain these minimum provisions only so long as the Legislature chooses not to enact a statutory scheme for such matters.

[11 FSM Intrm. 568]

III. Granting of Current Petition

     While the petition of Antasia A. Suda does not meet the requirements set forth in this memorandum, the Court knows of no reason why this petition should not be granted. The reasons stated for the change of name are reasonable and proper, despite the allegation of custom and tradition which the Court finds improper and untrue. The Court on its own motion strikes the allegation regarding custom and tradition, Chk. Civ. R. 12(f), and the petitioners request, that her name be changed from Antasia A. Suda to Antasia K. Amadus, as thus amended, is due to be, and hereby is, granted.

     The Clerk of Court shall provide the petitioner with all documentation necessary to reflect this change of name.

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______________________________________

Footnote:

1.  While the petition was filed by Petitioner pro se, it is clear from the language of the petition, and the format in which it was prepared, that it was prepared by, or with the assistance of, someone trained in the law, and probably either an attorney or a trial counselor. This practice of "ghost drafting" of legal documents should, wherever possible, be strongly discouraged.