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Kollbaum v. Blevins

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

THOMAS KOLLBAUM, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
FEYD BLEVINS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Jeffrey L. Poulson, Judge.

         Mother appeals from a decree establishing custody, visitation, support, and surname.

          Kendra M. Olson, Sioux City, for appellant.

          Elizabeth A. Rosenbaum, Sioux City, for appellee.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, JUDGE.

         Thomas Kollbaum and Feyd Blevins are the never-married parents of B.A.B., who was born in 2015. In July 2016, Kollbaum filed a petition to establish custody, visitation, and support. In an amended petition filed more than one year after the original petition, Kollbaum also requested a determination of the child's surname. The parties stipulated to the resolution of all issues except the determination of the child's surname. Following trial on that issue, the district decreed the child should have the surname of his father. Blevins timely filed this appeal.

         We review surname determinations de novo. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; Montgomery v. Wells, 708 N.W.2d 704, 705 (Iowa Ct. App. 2005). We give weight to the district court's factual findings but are not bound by them. See Montgomery, 708 N.W.2d at 706.

         "[W]hen the court first entertains an action between the parents to determine their legal rights and relationships with each other and the child, the court may also consider the legitimacy of the child's original naming as part of its determination of the child's legal status and custody. Id. When making a determination, "the presumption that a child bear the surname of [a] father is outdated and therefore rejected." In re Marriage of Gulsvig, 498 N.W.2d 725, 729 (Iowa 1993). Conversely, a "mother does not have the absolute right to name the child because of custody at birth." Id. Where, as here, a parent unilaterally names the child, there is no presumption the given name should hold when challenged by the other parent in an initial determination proceeding. See id. "[N]either parent has a superior right in determining the child's last name," and our primary consideration is the best interest of the child. See Montgomery, 708 N.W.2d at 707-08.

         Our case law has identified twelve nonexclusive factors to be considered when making an initial surname determination. See id. at 708-09. Those factors are:

(1) Convenience for the child to have the same name as or a different name from the custodial parent.
(2)Identification of the child as part of a family unit.
(3) Assurances by the mother that she would not change her name if she married or remarried if the child maintains ...

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