"Name abuse" is essentially what American Civil Liberties Union leader Robyn Blumner is calling a decision by a Vernal trial judge.
Eighth District Judge Dennis Draney recently ruled that a divorced woman may not regain her maiden name but must use the legal name of her children - unless she remarries."Unless a custodial parent changes her name by remarriage, she should retain the same last name of her children," Draney wrote.
The specific case that the Utah ACLU is appealing involves Mary Anne Symes (her legal name) who wants to return to her maiden name of Proctor. She was divorced two years ago and has joint custody of her 3-year-old daughter, Kristin.
The judge's decision shocks and outrages Blumner. "Effectively, Mary Anne's name has been abused by the judge because she has not been permitted to have the name of her choice. She has property rights to her name.
"An individual has the right to be called what he or she wishes."
The privilege to have the name of your choice is a basic constitutional right. Anyone who wishes to change his or her name has the right to do so, as long as the intent is not to defraud creditors, Blumner said.
In an appeal to the Utah Court of Appeals, the ACLU is contending that the judge misused his discretion because he did not consider Symes' individually. Instead he imposed "a policy."
When Symes divorced her husband two years ago, she did not request her maiden name because she was teaching school under her married name.
But in June this year, she decided to use her birth name when she returned to Utah State University for a graduate degree.
She has already changed her name on her financial records such as bank accounts and credit cards.
What offends Symes most about the judge's decision is the implication that a single mother does not have the right to return to using her maiden name but can take on a completely new name if she remarries.
Her birth name, Proctor, belongs to her, she contends. She was known as "Mary Anne Proctor" for 27 years and as "Mary Anne Symes" for only three years. Her sentimental attachment for and pride in the name given her by birth is much stronger than her married name.
She believes her decision to have a different name than her daughter is her own choice - and right.
Blumner said Symes received written permission from her ex-husband to regain her maiden name - although it may not be legally necessary.
Susan Bostwick, an attorney with a private firm, accepted the ACLU's request to represent Symes on the appeal. Bostwick will submit her appeal to the Utah Court of Appeals within 40 days.