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In re Change of Name of Whilde

Supreme Court of Nebraska

December 22, 2017

In re Change of Name of Whilde.
v.
Margaret Whilde, appellant. Lillias Delong Dulles Whilde, a minor. by and through her mother and next friend, Hannah Whilde, appellee,

         1. Motions to Vacate: Time. In a civil case, a court has inherent power to vacate or modify its own judgments at any time during the term at which those judgments are pronounced, and such power exists entirely independent of any statute.

         2. ___: ___. The decision to vacate an order at any time during the term in which the judgment is rendered is within the discretion of the court; such a decision will be reversed only if it is shown that the district court abused its discretion.

         3. Judgments: Words and Phrases. An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's decision is based upon reasons that are untenable or unreasonable or if its action is clearly against justice or conscience, reason, and evidence.

         4. Motions to Vacate: Judgments: Time. In the absence of an applicable rule to the contrary, a motion asking the court to exercise its inherent power to vacate or modify its own judgment does not toll the time for taking an appeal.

         Appeal from the District Court for Otoe County: Michael A. Smith, Judge. Affirmed.

          Anthony W. Liakos, of Govier, Katskee, Suing & Maxell. PC, L.L.O., for appellant.

          Julie E. Bear, of Reinsch, Slattery, Bear & Minahan, PC, L.L.O., for appellee.

          [298 Neb. 511] Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, and Stacy, JJ., and Riedmann, Judge.

          Miller-Lerman, J.

         NATURE OF CASE

         Margaret Whilde appeals the order of the district court for Otoe County, Nebraska, which overruled a motion to vacate the court's earlier order which granted a request to change the name of a minor child. She argued that she was entitled to notice by certified mail as a "noncustodial parent" under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-21, 271(2) (Reissue 2016), and that because she had not received such notice, the order changing the child's name should be vacated. We affirm the district court's order overruling Margaret's motion to vacate.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The minor child at issue in this case was born in January 2010. On December 21, 2016, the child's biological mother, Hannah Whilde, filed on behalf of the child a petition under § 25-21, 271 to change the child's name. The request was to change the child's two middle names, "Delong Dulles, " to two new middle names, "Coco Nadine, " and to change her last name from "Whilde" to Hannah's family name of "Hoch"; no request was made to change the child's first name. After Hannah filed the petition, she caused notice of the filing of the petition to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in Otoe County for 2 consecutive weeks.

         The district court held a hearing on the petition for name change on January 24, 2017. At the hearing, Hannah offered into evidence proof of publication of the notice. Hannah testified at the hearing that she was the natural mother of the child, that there was no noncustodial parent with respect to the child, and that there was "no natural father" involved because the child was "the product of a sperm donation." Hannah further testified regarding the reasons for the name change. She testified that the name change was not for the purpose [298 Neb. 512] of avoiding creditors or hiding the child. She testified instead that the two middle names she proposed were a nickname by which the child had generally been known since birth and the name of "a beloved great-grandmother" who was "very close to" the child. Hannah did not testify at the hearing regarding the reasons for changing the child's last name; however, in the petition, Hannah had stated that she wanted the child to have Hannah's family name and that Hannah was changing her own last name from ...


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