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McMahon v. Wirick

August 5, 2020

Melanie White and Stacy McMahon were the mother and father of a child, Addison White. They were never married. At some point after the child’s birth, Melanie White married another man and took his surname, Wirick.

After the child entered school, the father petitioned to have Addison’s surname changed from “White” to “McMahon.” The mother objected to the petition.

In support of his petition, the father presented evidence that Addison’s surname was a source of confusion, with school enrollment records referring to her as “Addison Wirick” and other school officials believing Mr. McMahon’s surname was “White.” After the trial court denied the father’s petition to change the child’s name, the father appealed.

The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed, noting that pursuant to Virginia Code § 8.01-217, a parent seeking to change a child’s surname over the objection of the other parent bears the burden of proving that the name change is in the child’s best interests. In order for a name change to be in the child’s best interests, there must be evidence that substantial reasons exist for the change. The Supreme Court found that substantial reasons for the name change had not been established. It rejected the contention that ensuring that a child shared a surname with at least one parent was a substantial reason for changing the child’s name. It further noted that it had previously admonished that a change of name will not be granted merely to save minor inconvenience or embarrassment to the parent or the child.