In a first-ever ruling on the matter of a legal name change for a transgender child, Middlesex County Chancery Division Judge Hon. Marcia Silva, J.S.C. ruled in favor of allowing Veronica Betts to legally change (his) name to Trevor in accordance with his on-going transgender treatment for gender dysphoria.
This case establishes that the “best interest standard”, the standard used by family courts across Bergen County and New Jersey in order to reach decisions in any matter involving children such as child support, child custody, and much more, should also be applied when considering whether or not a transgender child should legally be allowed to change his or her name.
As our laws and societal understanding of how gay, lesbian, and transgender issues can affect children continues to evolve, this ruling will certainly play a critical role in how family courts consider, and ultimately rule, in a variety of matters concerning children, and what exactly is in their best interests.
Hackensack Family Law Attorneys and “The History and Background of the Case”
From a very young age, Trevor’s parents simply thought of their “daughter” as a tomboy, and it wasn’t until Trevor reached the 6th grade that Trevor’s behavior and mood changed drastically, at which point Trevor and his mother began working with a social worker. In 2012, with the help of the social worker, Veronica informed her family that she was transgender, and actually saw herself as a male.
Veronica was then diagnosed by a psychologist as having “gender dysphoria”, and shortly thereafter made the request that she be called Trevor by her family, friends, and acquaintances. Trevor then, with the consent of both parents, began taking hormone treatments to suppress menstruation, and also began testosterone therapy. While Trevor’s mother and her family all consented to the name change, Trevor’s father and his family continued to call Trevor “Veronica”, despite the treatments he was undergoing.
Several years later, Trevor’s mother petitioned the Chancery Court (a Court which hears lawsuits seeking relief for things other than monetary damages) to legally change the name of her child from Veronica to Trevor. As there was no prior case ruling from which to draw any kind of precedent, Hon. Marcia Silva, J.S.C had to first decide what standard should be used when making this ruling, and ultimately decided that the “best interest of the child” standard applied in this matter.
Bergen County Family Courts and “The Best Interest Standard”
The best interest standard is a widely applied standard which helps courts rule in legal matters concerning children. Commonly applied in family law matters such as relocation requests, child custody agreements and modifications, child support agreements and modifications, domestic violence issues, and more, the best interest standard seeks to take into account a variety of factors, weighed by the courts differently depending upon the circumstances and the matter being decided.
In the case of Trevor’s legal name change request, the court considered the following “best interest” factors:
- The age of the child
- The amount of time the child has used their requested name
- The name the child is referred to by family, friends, in school, and in the community
- The child’s own preferences and motivations for seeking the name change
- The potential anxiety, embarrassment, or discomfort the child may experience if their name does not match their own gender identity and self-view
- Any history of medical or mental health therapy the child has already received
- Whether or not each parent consents to the name change, and why they oppose the request if consent is denied
Upon consideration, taking into account these best interest factors, Judge Silva ultimately granted Trevor’s legal name change request, stating “Trevor has undergone hormone therapy and presents as a young man with facial hair, a muscular build, a head full of male textured hair, a deeper voice. To force him to legally keep the feminine name ‘Veronica’ would not be in his best interest.”
Contact Our Bergen County Family Law Firm Today
At The Law Office of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience working with parents and families to resolve a variety of legal matters concerning children, their best interests, and how they coincide with the needs and interests of the parent(s) in towns across New Jersey and Bergen County, including Ridgewood, Hackensack, Teaneck, Paramus, and Fort Lee.
By practicing exclusively family and divorce law, our firm is ideally suited to helping you resolve any legal matter pertaining to your family and your children, including child support matters, child custody and visitation matters, domestic violence, legal name changes, and more.
To speak with our legal team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding any kind of family law issue you may be facing, your options and next steps moving forward, and how our firm can help you protect your best interests and the best interests of your children, please contact us online, or through our Hackensack, NJ office at (201) 397-1750.