In a recent a Superior Court decision, Sacklow v. Betts, the Court addressed an issue of first impression in New Jersey; what standard to apply to a transgender minor child’s name change application.
In this case, Judge Marcia Silva found that the best interest of the child standard should govern the court’s decision and that the following factors should be considered when determining whether a name change is in the minor child’s best interest, where the minor child is transgender and wishes to assume a name they believe corresponds to the gender they identify with: (1) the age of the child; (2) the length of time the child has used the preferred name; (3) any potential anxiety, embarrassment or discomfort that may result from the child having a name he or she believes does not match his or her outward appearance and gender identity; (4) the history of any medical or mental health counseling the child has received; (5) the name the child is known by in his or her family, school and community; (6) the child’s preference and motivations for seeking the name change; and (7) whether both parents consent to the name change, and if consent is not given, the reason for withholding consent.
In her ruling, Judge Silva, held that the 16-year-old minor born to a now-divorced couple, can have her birth name changed after analyzing the above factors in light of the testimony and facts presented in the case. The Judge reasoned that “[t]his name change allows the transgendered minor to begin to fully transition into their chosen gender and possibly prevent them from facing harassment and embarrassment from being forced to use a legal name that may no longer match his or her gender identification.”
This case denotes that the law relating to gender identity, sexual orientation and related issues is evolving. Judge Silva’s opinion will certainly provide parents, litigants and their attorneys guidance in a developing area of law which is sure to be addressed by courts in New Jersey and throughout the United States.