NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court ." Although it is posted on the
internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3.
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
DOCKET NO. A-0783-19
IN THE MATTER OF THE
APPLICATION OF PAOLA C.
ZAMPIERI TO CHANGE THE
NAME OF SCARLETT MARIA
Submitted December 2, 2020 – Decided April 26, 2021
Before Judges Ostrer and Accurso.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey,
Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County,
Docket No. FD-03-0938-19.
Schwartz, Hanna & Olsen, PC, attorneys for appellant
Carl Frederic Sealey (Christopher Olsen, on the
Patricia Ronayne, Esquire, PC, attorneys for
respondent Paola C. Zampieri (Patricia Ronayne and
Alexandra Gitter, on the brief).
Carl Frederic Sealey appeals from a September 13, 2019 order and
judgment changing his then-three-year-old daughter's name from Scarlett
Maria Rose Sealey, the name he and the child's mother, Paola C. Zampieri,
chose at the time of her birth in October 2015, to Scarlett Marie Zampieri.
Sealey claims he and Zampieri agreed on Scarlett's name and chose her two
middle names to honor their mothers. The parties were together for five years,
but never married, and their relationship ended in early 2016, when Scarlett
was still an infant.
Zampieri applied to change Scarlett's name in 2019, after Sealey was
sentenced to six-and-one-half-years in federal prison for a Ponzi scheme, in
which she alleges he swindled friends and neighbors of the couple of sums
exceeding a million dollars. Zampieri further claims Sealey failed to maintain
a relationship with Scarlett, which he denies. He claims his contact with
Scarlett has only been interrupted by his incarceration.
The court heard argument on the application in September 2019. 1
Zampieri's counsel argued it was in Scarlett's best interests to change her name
so she could be enrolled in pre-school without the stigma attached to her
father's name in the community where they lived. Sealey's counsel advised the
court that a medical condition prevented Sealey from appearing by video
The court's order states it heard testimony from Zampieri on September 13,
2019, but the transcript provided us from that date reflects only argument by
conference from prison, but contended Zampieri's application was made out of
spite and a desire to remove any trace of Sealey from their lives, evidenced by
Zampieri's desire to also remove Scarlett's middle name, Rose, chosen to honor
his mother. Counsel further argued that Scarlett's age made it unlikely her
peers would be "Googling" her father and taunting or ostracizing her over his
Zampieri's counsel countered it was not Scarlett's peers but their parents
who concerned Zampieri. She claimed Zampieri was not trying to separate
Scarlett from her father but instead trying to protect her from being picked on
and bullied because of something her father did, for which the child bore no
The judge ruled it was in Scarlett's best interest to change her last name
to Zampieri but denied the application to remove her middle name of Rose,
after Zampieri's counsel commented it was "not the end-all, whether or not that
name comes out," it was "just easier for the child to write . . . a shorter name."
Although colloquy on the motion makes clear the judge was familiar with the
eleven-factor test of Emma v. Evans,
215 N.J. 197
, 223 (2013), which controls
resolution of a dispute between parents over their child's jointly-chosen
surname, the court did not address any of the factors in his oral decision.
Instead, noting that one of the lawyers "had to be somewhere else," the judge
released them saying he would "issue a written order addressing each of the
factors." The order and final judgment he issued a week later, however, only
documented his decision; it did not provide any reasons for its entry.
Rule 1:7-4 requires a court to "find the facts and state its conclusions of
law . . . on every motion decided by a written order that is appealable as of
right," which, of course, this one was. The reasons for the rule are obvious; it
is not possible for an appellate court to engage in any meaningful review of a
record so deficient that we must guess at the judge's reasons for entering the
final order. See Ronan v. Adely,
182 N.J. 103
, 110-11 (2004). Because both
parties' appellate case information statements erroneously reported the trial
court issued both oral and written findings, it does not appear the judge was
advised by either party that there was no statement of reasons attached to the
order and judgment or asked whether he would be filing one pursuant to Rule
2:5-1(b). We surmise that error prevented the clerk's office from detecting the
absence of reasons supporting the September 13, 2019 order and judgment and
alerting us to the problem before the case was calendared for disposition.
Both parties have briefed all eleven factors of the controlling standard,
each arguing they support their disparate positions. Zampieri claims the
hearing on her application was adjourned for months at Sealey's request, that
his opposition brief was filed only the day before the hearing, and he never
filed a certification explaining his reasons for opposing changing Scarlett's
name. She further notes Sealey did not "file a motion for amendment of the
trial court order and final judgment under R. 1:7-4(b)" and contends the matter
should be remanded for the court to render findings in accordance with Rule
1:7-4(a). She argues, however, that to "reverse and remand would reward
[Sealey's] own failure to fully present his objection" to the trial court. Sealey
contends Zampieri failed to carry her burden 2 that changing Scarlett's name
was in her best interests and we should reverse.
Having reviewed the record, we determine our only course is to vacate
the order and judgment and remand for further proceedings. We leave to the
trial court whether the existing record is adequate to render a decision in the
matter, or whether the absence of a certification from Sealey supporting his
reasons for opposing Zampieri's name change request, coupled with the
Sealey argues Emma established a presumption that the name "given to the
child by both parents is in the best interests of the child." Emma actually
abolished the presumption favoring the custodial parent's choice of surname
adopted in Gubernat v. Deremer,
140 N.J. 120
, 144 (1995), and replaced it, not
with another presumption, but with the best interests standard.
N.J. at 221-22
passage of time, requires the parties be given the opportunity to supplement
the existing record. We do not retain jurisdiction.
Vacated and remanded.