No Mental Exam Required for Transgender Name Change

(CN) – A 14-year-old transgender child who applied to change his name from Natalie to Nathan cannot be forced to first submit to a mental health exam, a Missouri appeals court ruled.

N.N.H. is a biological female who identifies as male. With his mother’s support, he applied last year to legally change his name from Natalie to Nathan.

His mother testified that he has gone by the name Nathan for the last two years and is known by that name at school. The child’s father is dead, and no one objected to the name-change petition.

However, Judge R. Michael Wagner, of his own accord, said he would require the appointment of a guardian ad litem before setting a hearing on the matter. A guardian ad litem would offer the court an independent opinion on whether a name change would be in the child’s best interest.

N.N.H. objected to the appointment, and told Wagner that the name change was fully his idea.

Wagner then stated, “I wanted a guardian ad litem appointed to do that investigation, but…that was objected to and that’s your guys’ right to object, so what I am going to do is order that the child submit to a mental evaluation.”

The Missouri Court of Appeals’ Western District vacated that order Tuesday.

“Missouri citizens are permitted [to] have their name changed upon proof that the name change would be proper and would not be detrimental to any other person,” Judge Lisa Hardwick said, writing for a three-judge panel. “The mental state of the party requesting the name change does not directly relate to any material element of the cause of action.”

There was no evidence on record that would call N.N.H.’s mental health into question, the panel said, and the court does not have the authority to order a mental examination when the minor is represented by his parent.

However, Hardwick declined to address the claim that Wagner’s order constituted unlawful sex discrimination, or to impose sanctions on the judge.