July 29, 2014

Appeals Court rules in baby name case

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling over the name of a child born to an unmarried couple. Kenneth Peckosh and Laura Wenger were dating but didn’t live together when they had a baby in September of 2008.

They agreed that the baby’s first name should be Isabella. But they argued over which last name the baby should carry. Peckosh agreed to sign a paternity certificate giving her Wenger’s name after he was allowed to chose the baby’s middle name. Peckosh later asked that the baby be given the hyphenated last name of Peckosh-Wenger when he sought visitation rights.

The Iowa Court of Appeals sided with the Linn County District Court and ruled that Peckosh voluntarily signed off on the baby’s last name when he signed the paternity certificate. It said changing her name would require a whole new legal process, which would require the mother’s approval.

Justice Michael Mullins issued a dissent on the opinion, saying Peckosh could have taken another route and filed a paternity lawsuit to establish himself as the father and wait for the case to work through the courts. Mullions says this placed Peckosh in the unenviable position of having to decide in the first few days of the child’s life whether he was going to be involved with the child from the beginning of life, or risk denial of involvement until a lawsuit over paternity was resolved.

Mullins says the issue should be sent back to district court to determine the best interest of the child in deciding her legal last name.