District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Matthew
Bates The Honorable Patrick Corum No. 154901302
M. Lang, Attorney for Appellant
Michael P. Studebaker, Attorney for Appellee
Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K.
Orme and David N. Mortensen concurred.
Dario Arthur Velasquez appeals the district court's
decision to hyphenate the surname of his biological son (the
child). Velasquez argues that the court did not address the
six-factor test articulated in Hamby v. Jacobson,
769 P.2d 273 (Utah Ct. App. 1989), for determining whether
changing the child's surname from Chavez to
Velasquez-Chavez was in the child's best interest.
Because we conclude the district court properly considered
all the relevant factors and provided sufficient findings to
support its decision, we affirm.
Velasquez and Stacy L. Chavez were in a relationship and
living together when Chavez became pregnant with their child.
A few months into the pregnancy, Chavez ended the
relationship and moved in with a former boyfriend who was the
father of her daughter.
When Chavez gave birth to the child, she left the birth
certificate blank as to the child's father and gave the
child the surname "Chavez." A few weeks after the
birth, Velasquez filed a Verified Petition for Decree of
Paternity (the petition). Relevant to this appeal, Velasquez
petitioned the court to change the child's surname to
At the trial on the petition, the parties were present and
stipulated to proffers of testimony before the court.
Velasquez's attorney argued that the child's surname
should be "Velasquez" because Velasquez believes
that the child is confused as to who his "real
father" is because he calls both Velasquez and
Chavez's significant other "daddy."
Velasquez's attorney argued that the child will be
stigmatized and embarrassed to have his mother's surname
because children at school "are very cruel" and
will conclude he is "illegitimate." His attorney
anticipated that a hyphenated surname might be an option and
expressed concerns that the name "Velasquez will be
dropped off" if the child's surname was changed to
"Chavez-Velasquez." There was also concern that the
child would just go by "Chavez" if the last name
was changed to "Velasquez-Chavez." But Velasquez
did not "have any objection to Chavez being a middle
name." Velasquez's attorney argued that "for
inheritance purposes, for the idea of carrying on the last
name of Velasquez, for the heritage of his family, [the
child] should have [Velasquez's] last name." At this
point, the district court asked Velasquez directly,
"[S]hare with me your heritage, where does your family
come from?" Velasquez responded that he and his mother
are from Texas and that his father was born in Mexico but has
spent most of his life in Texas.
In response, Chavez's attorney argued that
Velasquez's arguments with respect to the child's
confusion, embarrassment, and "stigmas in schools"
were based on "a lot of speculation" without any
support. Chavez disagreed that the child would suffer
embarrassment or lack of identity without his father's
surname. Chavez's attorney proffered that the child
shared Velasquez's middle name and that Chavez was
"not opposed to the offer of the child's last name
being Velasquez-dash-Chavez." Chavez's attorney
further explained that he had "spent a lot of time
researching and trying to find any sociological or
psychological literature" to make sure the child was not
harmed by a hyphenated surname. The court asked Chavez where
her family came from, and she responded that her family was
from Colorado and that she lived in Utah. The court commented
that "it is common in certain Latin cultures for a
person's last name to be the father's last name
hyphenated with the mother's last name" and then
asked if either family followed that tradition. Velasquez and
Chavez each responded, "No."
Following the proffered testimony, the district court gave
its oral ruling, following the six-factor test articulated in
Hamby v. Jacobson, 769 P.2d 273 (Utah Ct. App.
1989), for determining whether changing the child's
surname is in the child's best interest. The court
concluded that it was in the child's best interest to
have the surname Velasquez-Chavez to "make sure that the
child understands that he has two parents that don't live
together but they're both his parents." The court
also explained that "although this isn't common in
the heritage of the two families here, it is . . . very
common in the heritage of many Latin and Hispanic families,
in Utah and outside of Utah . . . [and] it's very common
in . . . other cultures in this community."
Velasquez objected to the hyphenated last name. He personally
addressed the court, arguing that it had erroneously based
its decision on "Latin countries and stuff,"
despite the fact that he and Chavez were both born in the
United States and "the ways here in America is [to use]
one last name." The court clarified that it
"mentioned that particular cultural tradition only to
demonstrate that [it] found little basis to find that a
hyphenated name is going to cause the child any embarrassment
simply because that is so prevalent in our community today,
regardless of where it comes from."
Following the trial, the court entered findings of fact and
conclusions of law and ordered that the child's surname