In Re: The Name Change of Maria Fernanda Benitez, Appellant.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower
Tribunal No. 16-22209, David C. Miller, Judge.
T. Fox; Cynthia L. Greene, for appellant.
ROTHENBERG, C.J., and SALTER and SCALES, JJ.
Fernanda Benitez ("Ms. Benitez"), as the mother of
a three-year-old child ("W.M.B."), appeals a
circuit court order denying her petition to change
W.M.B.'s first name. The issue presented apparently is
one of first impression in Florida: may the court dispense
with the statutory requirement that process be served on (or
constructive notice given to, in the case of a nonresident) a
father, whose identity is known to the mother but whose name
is not on the child's birth certificate, and who has not
been adjudicated to be the father? We affirm in part, and
reverse in part, the trial court's resolution of this
trial court concluded that it lacked the authority to grant
the petition in this case because of Ms. Benitez's
failure or refusal to obtain the father's consent and to
serve him, or to provide constructive notice to him if the
father is a nonresident. Though Ms. Benitez and her counsel
make a persuasive argument, we are constrained to agree that
the trial court's application of the law was correct in
all but one minor respect. We affirm the denial of the
amended petition for name change, but with a copy of this
opinion to the Chief of Legislative Affairs, Office of the
State Courts Administrator, for consideration during the
annual statutory clarification cycle.
Petition, Amended Petition, and Procedural History
verified petition and amended verified petition to change
W.M.B.'s name referred to the controlling statute
(section 68.07, Florida Statutes (2016)) and, for the most
part, tracked the allegations specified in the statute.
Information responsive to two subsections of the statute,
however, was not provided by Ms. Benitez:
(3) Each petition shall be verified and show:
* * *
(b) If known, the date and place of birth of the petitioner,
the petitioner's father's name, the petitioner's
mother's maiden name, and where the petitioner has
resided since birth.
* * *
(8) When only one parent petitions for a change of name of a
minor child, process shall be served on the other parent and
proof of such service shall be filed in the cause; however,
if the other parent is a nonresident, constructive notice of
the petition may be given pursuant to chapter 49, and proof