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In re Boardman

Supreme Court of Maine

June 27, 2017


          Submitted On Briefs: May 25, 2017

          James S. Mundy, Esq., Whitney, Mundy & Mundy, South Berwick, for appellant Carol Ann Boardman

          Kimberly Ann Fredette, amicus curiae pro se

          Mary L. Bonauto, Esq., and Patience Crozier, Esq., GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Boston, for amici curiae GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, ACLU of Maine Foundation, EqualityMaine, and Trans Youth Equality Foundation


          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] Carol A. Boardman appeals from a decision of the Cumberland County Probate Court [Mazziotti, J.) denying her petition for a name change entered after a hearing. Boardman contends that the court erred by concluding that the potential effect of the name change-others' misunderstanding of Boardman's marital status-does not demonstrate a purpose "of defrauding another person or entity" that supports the court's denial of the petition.[1] 18-AM.R.S. ¶ 1-701(f) (2015).[2] We agree with Boardman, and we therefore vacate the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] On June 17, 2016, Carol A. Boardman filed in the Cumberland County Probate Court an unopposed petition and affidavit seeking to change her name to Carol A. Currier. In her accompanying affidavit, Boardman attested to four facts as follows: (1) "I certify that I have notified ... [a]ny adult person who is a relative or with whom I live or work or who is a blood relative of a person with whom I live who has the same name which I am seeking to adopt"; (2) "I have no minor children"; (3) "I am not involved in any bankruptcy proceedings or arrangements among creditors in which my debts to others are being affected, nor do I reasonably anticipate that such proceedings or arrangements are about to begin"; and (4) "I know of no person who has or has reason to have any objection to the change of name I am seeking."

         [¶3] The court conducted a hearing on the petition on August 18, 2016, during which it inquired as to whether Currier was Boardman's "maiden" name. Boardman responded that Currier was not her original family name, but was instead the last name of her friend, and that her husband had died in 2013 and she wanted a "fresh start." The court informed Boardman that to allow her to take her friend's last name would be a "deception" in that it would falsely suggest to others that she and her friend are married. The court explained, "So, if somebody were to extend credit to you, let you sign a lease, give you access to records, they would do so under the misapprehension that you were a married couple, but you're not." When Boardman asked, "What am I supposed to do?" the court replied, "Get married. That's your solution, I'm afraid." The court denied the petition, concluding, "Boardman seeks to change her name to the surname of her partner. She admits that by doing so will give the public impression they are a married couple and thus a false impression." Boardman appeals. See 18-A M.R.S. § 1-308 (2016); M.R. App. P. 2(b)(3).


         [¶4] At the time Boardman filed her petition, the name change statute in effect was 18-A M.R.S. § 1-701 (2015).[3] Section 1-701 provides that a court may grant a name change when a "person [who] desires to have that person's name changed" files a petition in the county in which she resides and provides "due notice" of the request along with a forty-dollar fee. 1 M.R.S. § 1-701(a), (b), (d). The court may also order the petitioner to undergo background checks to verify criminal history, motor vehicle history, and credit history. 1 M.R.S. § 1-701(e). Section 1-701 further names the limited circumstances in which a name change may not be granted: "The judge may not change the name of the person if the judge has reason to believe that the person is seeking the name change for purposes of defrauding another person or entity or for purposes otherwise contrary to the public interest." 1 M.R.S. § 1-701(f).

         [¶5] Here, the record establishes, and there is no dispute, that Boardman filed a petition in the Probate Court of the county in which she resides, see 18-AM.R.S. § 1-701(a); Boardman is not a minor, see 18-A M.R.S. § 1-701(a); no parental rights dispute regarding a minor was pending, see 18-A M.R.S. § 1-701(a); "due notice" of the petition was provided, see 18-A M.R.S. § 1-701(b); Boardman paid the required fee with her petition, see 18-A M.R.S. § 1-701(d); and the court did not require Boardman to submit to any background checks, see 18-A M.R.S. § 1-701(e). See In re A.M.B., 2010 ME 54, ¶¶ 2, 3, 5, 997 A.2d 754. No one appeared before the Probate Court to oppose her petition.

         [¶6] The Probate Court determined, however, that granting her the requested name change might mislead others to believe that she is married to a man who has the same last name she wishes to adopt. This misunderstanding, the court apparently concluded, constitutes the ...

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