Appeal from the 245th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2013-27925
consists of Justices Jennings, Bland, and Brown.
a dispute over the name change of a minor. The minor's
mother, Adaline Werthwein, contends that the trial court
abused its discretion by granting the request of the father,
Craig Workman, to change the last name of their two-year-old
son (pseudonymously referred to as "Michael") from
Werthwein to Workman without legally or factually sufficient
evidence that the name change was in Michael's best
interest. Werthwein also contends that the trial court
erroneously shifted the burden of proof to her to disprove
that a name change was in Michael's best interest, and,
in doing so, revealed a bias in favor of the father.
there is adequate evidence to support the trial court's
best-interest determination and there is no indication that
the trial court shifted the burden of proof, we affirm.
and Workman married in June 2012. Werthwein, who is a real
estate agent, continued using Werthwein as her last name
during the marriage, both socially and professionally. She
listed her last name as Werthwein on real estate signs and in
professional and personal documents, including tax documents
filed with the government. She listed Workman as her last
name on her driver's license.
six months into the marriage, Werthwein became pregnant with
Michael. Werthwein and Workman separated before Michael was
born. The two parties testified differently regarding the
events leading to their separation, Michael's birth, and
the selection of Michael's last name.
parties dispute what Workman's reaction was to the
pregnancy. According to Workman, he doubted that he was the
father of the child because he had received a medical opinion
that led him to believe he could not have biological
children. Workman testified that he confronted Werthwein
about the child's paternity and that she said the child
would be of a different race than Workman.
denied Workman's assertions. She testified that the
couple had been actively trying to get pregnant after having
an earlier pregnancy end in miscarriage. She said that
Workman was "very excited" about the pregnancy and
that the couple had happily announced it to friends with an
"It's a Boy" sign. According to Werthwein,
there was never a conversation between the two about Michael
possibly not being Workman's biological child. Werthwein
testified that, as the pregnancy progressed in early 2013,
Workman unexpectedly began denying paternity to friends and
then moved out.
2013, Werthwein filed for divorce, listing herself and
Workman as the parents of the unborn child. Workman
countersued, denied paternity, and requested genetic
paternity testing. Workman did not request in his original
counter-petition for divorce that Michael's last name be
changed to Workman. At that point, paternity was still
August 2013, according to Werthwein, Workman told her to not
contact him again. Communication stopped.
was born the next month, in September 2013. Workman was not
at the delivery. There is no indication in the record whether
Workman knew Michael had been born.
Werthwein was presented paperwork at the hospital to obtain
Michael's birth certificate, she listed Workman as
Michael's father but indicated that Michael's last
name would be Werthwein, not Workman. Werthwein testified
that she gave Michael her last name because, at that time,
"his father was denying him." Upon questioning by
the trial court, she stated, "I don't really know
many women that are going to name their child after a man
that's walked out on the marriage . . . [and] denied . .
. paternity of the child."
paternity test was later conducted that confirmed Workman is
Michael's biological father. Divorce proceedings
continued, still without Workman requesting Michael's
last name be changed. The divorce became final in June 2014,
when Michael was about nine months old.
than a year later, in September 2015, Workman sought to
modify conservatorship to allow more access to Michael.
Werthwein filed a counter-petition, seeking additional child
support. Workman then amended his petition in January 2016,
when Michael was about two and one-half years old, to request
Michael's last name be changed to Workman.
to Werthwein, Workman never mentioned wanting Michael to have
his last name until he amended his petition in January 2016,
after Michael had accumulated more than two years of
experience using the last name Worthwein in his community and
on his official documents, including his certificate of
baptism and his school and medical records. Werthwein argued
that it would cause Michael confusion to change his name
after he had begun to identify with the last name Werthwein.
other modification issues were resolved by the parties;
however, they could not agree on the issue of Michael's
last name. A hearing was held in June 2016 for the trial
court to determine the last name that would be in
Michael's best interest. The parents were the only
witnesses, and their testimony directly contradicted each
other's. The trial court issued a ruling, finding that
Michael's last name should be changed to Workman and that
it was in Michael's best interest for his last name to be
of Evidence to Support Name Change
first issue, Werthwein argues that the trial court abused its
discretion in granting the name change because there was
insufficient evidence that changing Michael's name was in
his best interest.
Statutory basis for minor name change and standard
45.004 of the Family Code states that a "court may order
the name of a child changed if . . . the change is in the
best interest of the child." Tex. Fam. Code §
45.004(a)(1); see id. § 160.636(e) (providing
that courts adjudicating parentage issues may, upon
"request of a party and for good cause shown . . . order
that the name of the child be changed"). Parental
interests are irrelevant; the child's best interest is
determinative. Anderson v. Dainard, 478 S.W.3d 147,
151 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2015, no pet.).
evaluate the best interest of the child in connection with a
requested name change, we consider six nonexclusive factors,
keeping in mind that their "relative importance . . .
will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of each
case." Anderson, 478 S.W.3d at 151 (quoting
In re H.S.B., 401 S.W.3d 77, 84 (Tex. App.-Houston
[14th Dist.] 2011, no pet.). The nonexclusive factors are
(1) the name that would best avoid anxiety, embarrassment,
inconvenience, confusion, or disruption for the child, which
may include consideration of parental misconduct and the
degree of community respect (or disrespect) associated with
(2) the name that would best help the child's
associational identity within a family unit, which may
include whether a change in name would positively or
negatively affect the bond between the child and either
parent or the parents' families;
(3) assurances by the parent whose last name the child will
bear that the parent will not change his or her last name at
a later time;
(4) the length of time the child has used one last name and
the level of identity the child has with the last name;
(5) the child's preference, along with the age and
maturity of the child; and
(6) whether either parent is motivated by concerns other than
the child's best interest-for example, an attempt to
alienate the child from the other parent.
Anderson, 478 S.W.3d at 151.
changing a child's last name may cause disruption and
confusion, courts have recognized the benefits inherent in
maintaining the status quo and the need for a petitioner to
demonstrate that a different last name is in the child's
best interest. See Anderson, 478 S.W.3d at 152-53
(noting that both parents provided best-interest evidence in
support of their preferred disposition and concluding that,
on mixed evidence, trial court did not abuse discretion in
ordering name change); In re A.E.M., 455 S.W.3d 684,
692 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2014, no pet.) (holding
that "slight evidence" presented by father did not
meet burden for changing child's last name); In re
Guthrie, 45 S.W.3d 719, 724 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2001,
pet. denied) (stating that courts will change child's
name reluctantly and only for good reason); cf. In re
H.S.B., 401 S.W.3d at 83 n.7 (noting that analysis in
suits to change minor's name generally favors status
Standard of review
review a trial court's ruling on a request to change the
name of a child for an abuse of discretion. In re
A.E.M., 455 S.W.3d at 689. A trial court abuses its
discretion when it acts in an arbitrary or unreasonable
manner or without reference to any guiding rules or
principles. Id. When reviewing the sufficiency of
the evidence under an abuse-of-discretion standard,
evidentiary sufficiency is not an independent issue.
Id. It is incorporated into the abuse-of-discretion
review. Id. The analysis is two pronged: (1) whether
the trial court had sufficient information to exercise its
discretion and (2) whether the trial court erred
in its application of its discretion. Id.
factfinder is the sole judge of a witness's credibility
and the weight to be given each witness's testimony.
City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d ...