In re the Paternity and Custody of: Baby Boy A., d/o/b December 17, 2005, P.G.M. petitioner, Respondent, vs. J.M.A., Appellant.

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In re the Paternity and Custody of: Baby Boy A., d/o/b December 17, 2005, P.G.M., petitioner, Respondent, vs. J.M.A., Appellant. A07-0452, Court of Appeals Unpublished Decision, December 11, 2007.

This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480 A. 08, subd. 3 (2006).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS
A07-452


In re the Paternity and Custody of:
Baby Boy A., d/o/b December 17, 2005,
P.G.M., petitioner,
Respondent,
 
vs.
 
J.M.A.,
Appellant.

 

Filed December 11, 2007

Affirmed

Willis, Judge

 

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 27-PA-FA-05-278

 

 Steven H. Snyder, Steven H. Snyder & Associates, 11270 86th Avenue North, Maple Grove, MN  55369 (for respondent)

 

Karim El-Ghazzawy, Donald L. Enockson, Hennepin County Family Court Public Defenders, 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN  55415 (for appellant)

 

            Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Minge, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

WILLIS, Judge

Appellant, who served as the gestational surrogate for respondent's child, challenges the district court's determination of parentage and custody in favor of respondent, arguing that the district court (1) erred by enforcing the parties' gestational-surrogacy agreement; (2) erred by applying Illinois law as provided by the choice-of-law provision in the parties' agreement and then incorrectly applied Illinois law; and (3) abused its discretion by granting respondent's request to change the child's name.  Because the record supports the district court's findings and it did not err in its application of the law, we affirm.   

FACTS

This case involves the disputed parentage and custody of a child born using in vitro fertilization and gestational surrogacy, which involves the fertilization in vitro of an egg (often from an anonymous donor) with the sperm of the intended father.  Doctors then implant the fertilized egg into the womb of a woman who is the "gestational surrogate."  Although the gestational surrogate carries and delivers the child, she is not genetically or biologically related to the child. 

Respondent P.G.M. is a 38-year-old attorney, who lives in New York City.  Raised in a large family, P.G.M. wanted to have a child.  As a gay man with HIV,[1] he believed that the only method to produce a genetically related child was by using in vitro fertilization and a gestational surrogate.  P.G.M. spent more than a year discussing the procedure with doctors, considering possible egg donors, and researching gestational surrogacy.  After one of his doctors expressed a preference for a biologically related gestational surrogate, P.G.M. called his sister Mary during the spring of 2004 to ask if she would serve that function.  Mary declined, but she told appellant J.M.A., Mary's daughter and a student in Minnesota, about her conversation with P.G.M.  Although J.M.A. was pregnant at the time, she made an unsolicited call to P.G.M. and offered to act as his gestational surrogate.  Aware that J.M.A. was then pregnant, P.G.M. declined J.M.A.'s offer. 

Over the next several months, the parties exchanged correspondence about gestational surrogacy.  After J.M.A. gave birth to her child in the fall of 2004, P.G.M. accepted J.M.A.'s oral offer to act as his gestational surrogate.  On December 2, 2004, P.G.M. signed a gestational-surrogacy agreement (GSA) that he had drafted to memorialize the parties' agreement, using sample GSAs that he had found on the Internet as a guide.  The GSA provides that it is to be governed by Illinois law and contains the core terms of the agreement, specifically, that J.M.A. would carry P.G.M.'s genetic child, give birth to the child, and disclaim any right to the child.  It also contains P.G.M.'s agreement, in return, to pay all of J.M.A.'s unreimbursed and incidental expenses associated with the surrogacy.  The GSA also included disclosures about P.G.M.'s HIV, the "sperm-washing" process,[2] and this declaration of intent:

I, [J.M.A.] hereby acknowledge that I have agreed to carry and give birth to a child conceived via in vitro fertilization through the union of an anonymous donor's ovum/ova and [P.G.M.'s] sperm, so that [P.G.M.] may have a child genetically related to him.  I have no intention of having physical or legal custody or any parental rights, duties or obligations with respect to any child born of this gestational surrogacy process.  Rather it is my intention that the genetic and intended parent, [P.G.M.], shall exclusively have such custody and all parental rights, duties and obligations. 

 

In mid-December 2004, approximately a month after receiving a copy of the agreement, J.M.A. signed it after declining P.G.M.'s offer to have independent legal counsel review the document at P.G.M.'s expense.  As part of an oral modification of the agreement, P.G.M. agreed to pay J.M.A. a $20,000 fee for her services as a gestational surrogate.  P.G.M. delivered a check for $20,000 to J.M.A. at the end of December 2004.

            In early 2005, the parties traveled to an Illinois medical facility specializing in sperm-washing and in-vitro fertilization, and they signed in Illinois numerous releases and disclosures that the facility required in order to perform the procedure.  On April 12, 2005, in vitro fertilization specialists in Illinois fertilized an egg from an anonymous donor with P.G.M.'s sperm and implanted the fertilized egg into J.M.A. 

            During the summer of 2005, J.M.A. stayed for two months with P.G.M. in his New York City apartment.  At some point during this stay, the parties had a falling out.  Soon thereafter, J.M.A. demanded that P.G.M. pay her an additional $120,000, and threatened to abort the child if P.G.M. did not meet her demands. 

            In early December 2005, J.M.A. drafted a new GSA, which provided for additional compensation for transportation, medical, and psychological services.  P.G.M. did not sign the revised GSA.  On December 17, 2005, J.M.A. gave birth to the child in Minnesota.  She named the child and did not tell P.G.M. about the child's birth, his name, or his whereabouts. 

After learning about the child's birth from his sister, P.G.M. filed this paternity action on December 19, 2005.  The district court immediately appointed an attorney for J.M.A. from the office of the Hennepin County Public Defender.  At the direction of the district court, Hennepin County Court Services interviewed both parties and filed a report that recommended that P.G.M. have temporary custody of the child.  That report also noted that P.G.M. had a strong emotional attachment to the child but that J.M.A. was motivated in large part by the prospect of financial gain. 

            A trial was held at which the district court heard extensive testimony and considered numerous exhibits.  The district court issued its paternity findings of fact and conclusions of law on August 18, 2006, concluding that, under the Illinois Parentage Act, P.G.M. was the child's father and denying J.M.A. parental rights.  The district court denied J.M.A.'s motion for a new trial, and she now appeals.

D E C I S I O N

I.         The district court properly enforced the gestational-surrogacy agreement's choice-of-law provision.

 

            We first review J.M.A.'s challenge of the district court's decision to enforce the GSA's choice-of-law provision and to apply Illinois law instead of Minnesota law in construing the agreement.  Choice-of-law issues are questions of law, which we review de novo.  Schumacher v. Schumacher, 676 N.W.2d 685, 690 (Minn. App. 2004). 

The GSA provides:  "This agreement shall be governed by Illinois law.  The in vitro fertilization and embryo placement described [in the agreement] will take place in Illinois."  The district court analyzed the choice-of-law issue by using the choice-influencing factors described in Milkovich v. Saari, 295 Minn. 155, 161, 203 N.W.2d 408, 412 (1973).  We arrive at the same conclusion by a different analysis. 

Minnesota courts "traditionally enforce[] parties' contractual choice of law provisions."  Hagstrom v. Am. Circuit Breaker Corp., 518 N.W.2d 46, 48 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Aug. 24, 1994).  We have "consistently expressed a commitment to the rule ‘that the parties, acting in good faith and without an intent to evade the law, may agree that the law of either state shall govern.'"  Id. (quoting Combined Ins. Co. of Am. v. Bode, 247 Minn. 458, 464, 77 N.W.2d 533, 536 (1956)). 

The record contains no evidence that, by selecting Illinois law, the parties acted in bad faith or with the intent to evade Minnesota law.  First, Minnesota law does not addressmuch less prohibitGSAs.  The parties, therefore, did not select Illinois law to avoid a Minnesota law.  Illinois law, unlike Minnesota law, provides a clear statutory structure for interpreting GSAs.  Second, although J.M.A. testified that she did not understand the choice-of-law provision, the district court rejected that testimony as lacking credibility, and we defer to the district court's credibility determination.  See Stensrud v. Lyon County Ditch No. 7, 609 N.W.2d 286, 290 (Minn. App. 2000) ("We defer to the [district] court's determinations of witness credibility."), review denied (Minn. June 27, 2000).  Because there is no evidence of bad faith or the intent to evade Minnesota law, the district court properly applied the choice-of-law provision and analyzed the agreement under Illinois law.  See Milliken & Co. v. Eagle Packaging, 295 N.W.2d 377, 380 n.1 (Minn. 1980) (emphasizing Minnesota courts' commitment to enforce choice-of-law provisions). 

II.        The gestational-surrogacy agreement is legally enforceable.

We next review J.M.A.'s challenge to the district court's determination that the GSA is legally enforceable.  She cites three reasons in support of her claim that it is unenforceable:  (1) the GSA does not reflect the parties' actual agreement, (2) P.G.M. coerced J.M.A. to sign the GSA, and (3) the GSA contravenes the public policy of the state of Minnesota.  We will address these arguments in turn.  

            The GSA is a valid contract and expresses the agreement of the parties. 

J.M.A. argues first that the district court clearly erred because the "[GSA] does not express the true agreement of the parties."  Specifically, she appears to claim that the district court erred by finding that the agreement does not include a provision that the parties agreed to a "joint living arrangement" and by finding that the parties orally modified their agreement to provide for additional compensation to J.M.A.  The existence, terms, and construction of a contract are questions of fact "to be determined by the factfinder."  Bergstedt, Wahlberg, Berquist Assocs., Inc. v. Rothchild, 302 Minn. 476, 480, 225 N.W.2d 261, 263 (1975).  We will not reverse a district court's fact findings unless they are manifestly contrary to the evidence and are without reasonable evidentiary support.  Inland Prods. Corp. v. Donovan, Inc., 249 Minn. 387, 390, 82 N.W.2d 691, 693 (1957). 

In Illinois, as in Minnesota, a valid contract requires an offer, acceptance, and consideration.  See Melena v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 847 N.E.2d 99, 109 (Ill. 2006).  Here, the record contains significant evidence to support the district court's finding that J.M.A. and P.G.M. entered into a written contract and orally modified that contract.  The record supports the district court's finding that J.M.A. offered and P.G.M. accepted J.M.A.'s offer to serve as a gestational surrogate for P.G.M.'s child.  P.G.M. then draftedand J.M.A. signeda GSA to memorialize the agreement.  In consideration for acting as P.G.M.'s gestational surrogate, the GSA provides that P.G.M. will pay all of J.M.A.'s unreimbursed medical costs associated with the surrogacy.  And the parties orally modified the GSA by agreeing that P.G.M. would pay J.M.A. an additional $20,000 fee.  Although the GSA requires that all modifications be in writing, Illinois law permits oral modification of written agreementseven if the agreement requires that modifications be in writing.  See Tadros v. Kuzmak, 660 N.E.2d 162, 170 (Ill. App. Ct. 1995)(noting common-law rule).  And although J.M.A. appears to argue that the oral modification invalidated the GSA, she cites no authority for the proposition that such a modification invalidates the entire agreement.  

To the extent that J.M.A. argues that the parties made additional agreements relating to living arrangements, we defer to the district court's finding that "there is insufficient credible evidence of such [other] agreement[s] in the trial exhibits or the testimony of any other witnesses at trial."  We note that the district court also found that "[P.G.M.'s] story is credible, and [J.M.A.'s] is not."  The record contains ample evidence to support the district court's finding that the parties have an enforceable agreement that expresses the "true agreement" of the parties.

J.M.A. was not coerced into signing the agreement.

 

J.M.A. argues next that the district court erred by enforcing the agreement because J.M.A. signed it under "psychological, emotional, and financial" coercion.  The existence of coercion is a question of fact.  Wise v. Midtown Motors, Inc., 231 Minn. 46, 53, 42 N.W.2d 404, 408 (1950).  We defer to the district court's factual findings unless they are manifestly contrary to the evidence.  Inland Prods. Corp., 249 Minn. at 390, 82 N.W.2d at 693. 

Again, under the choice-of-law provision, we review Illinois law regarding coercion.  In Illinois, the term "coercion" means "the imposition, oppression, undue influence, or the taking of undue advantage of the stress of another, whereby that person is deprived of the exercise of her free will."  In re Marriage of Gorman, 671 N.E.2d 819, 825 (Ill. App. Ct. 1996) (quotation omitted).  There must be such compulsion affecting the mind "that the execution of the contract or other instrument was not the voluntary act of the maker.  Such compulsion must be present and operate at the time the instrument was executed."  Stoltze v. Stoltze, 66 N.E.2d 424, 428 (Ill. 1946).  The burden of proving coercion is on the person asserting it.  Id.  Coercion does not exist merely because of hard bargaining positions or the pressure of financial circumstances.  Higgins v. Brunswick Corp., 395 N.E.2d 81, 85 (Ill. App. Ct. 1979).  

The record supports the district court's finding that J.M.A. was not coerced into serving as P.G.M.'s gestational surrogate.  P.G.M. initially contacted J.M.A.'s mother, Mary, in March 2004 regarding whether Mary would be willing to carry his child.  Mary declined the offer, but she told her daughter (J.M.A.) about P.G.M.'s inquiry.  Unsolicited, J.M.A.then contacted P.G.M. about serving as his gestational surrogate.  The district court found that three primary factors motivated J.M.A.: (1) her "attitudinal predisposition to help others"; (2) her "general desire to help" P.G.M.; and (3) the prospect "of receiving, what was to her, . . . a large sum of money."

At the time of J.M.A.'s initial offer, she was pregnant with her own child.  P.G.M. knew that, declined J.M.A.'s offer, and "encouraged [J.M.A.] to focus on her own pregnancy before she committed to acting as his gestational surrogate."   Throughout the summer of 2004, the parties discussed the process over the phone and by e-mail.   And the district court found that P.G.M. invited J.M.A. to discuss the process with "the attending fertility physicians who were to perform the sperm washing and/or embryo transfer."  In the fall of 2004, P.G.M. formally accepted J.M.A.'s offer to act as his gestational surrogate and drafted the GSA.  After modifying a GSA he found on the Internet, P.G.M. sent the agreement to J.M.A. for her review and signature.  An e-mail message accompanied the GSA, which provided, in relevant part:

[A]nyway, I hope this is simple and very straightforward but of course I want you to feel free to talk to me or another lawyer (I'd be happy to pay the fee) if there is anything about this agreement which you want to discuss further. [A]s we've discussed, I would be happy to make the payment we've discussed at the outset, before you sign the agreement, rather than by the more traditional method of staggered payments. 

 

Approximately a month after receiving the GSA, J.M.A. signed it and mailed it back to P.G.M.  The district court found that J.M.A.did not "avail herself of the opportunity to consult separate counsel on her own behalf at [P.G.M.'s] expense."  The district court also found that the parties did not meet face-to-face and that P.G.M. did not provide J.M.A. with legal advice.  Finally, the district court cited family testimony and psychological evidence describing J.M.A. as "independent and strong willed" and having "no problem . . . protecting her rights."  On the basis of these facts, the district court concluded that "[t]here was no fraud, misrepresentation, undue influence, or coercion by either party in the formation of the contract."  Because the record supports the district court's findings, they are not manifestly contrary to the evidence.

The agreement does not violate the public policy of Minnesota.

J.M.A. contends next that the GSA is "void and unenforceable because it is in violation of public policy," and, therefore, the district court erred in enforcing the GSA.  We disagree.  The enforceability of a contract presents a question of law, which we review de novo.  Share Health Plan, Inc. v. Marcotte, 495 N.W.2d 1, 3 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. Mar. 30, 1993). 

Minnesota courts will not enforce an otherwise validly executed contract that contravenes public policy.  Rossman v. 740 River Drive, 308 Minn. 134, 136, 241 N.W.2d 91, 92 (1976).  Contracts violate public policy when they injure some established societal interest.  Isles Wellness, Inc. v. Progressive N. Ins. Co., 725 N.W.2d 90, 93 (Minn. 2006).  The public policy of this state is found in various authorities, including legislation and judicial decisions.  Holland v. Sheehan, 108 Minn. 362, 364-65, 122 N.W. 1, 2 (1909); see also McCauley v. Michael, 256 N.W.2d 491, 498 (Minn. 1977) (stating that a contract is void as against public policy when it is "contrary to the terms and policy of an express legislative enactment") (quotation omitted).   

J.M.A. argues that the district court erred by giving any effect to the GSA because there is "no statutory or case law authority under Minnesota law which sanctions the determination of a child's parentage and custody pursuant to a private contract."  But as noted above, there is no Minnesota statute or caselaw that prohibits GSAs.  And the legislature has expressly protected the rights of individuals who use assisted-reproduction technologies.  See, e.g., Minn. Stat. § 257.56 (2006) (providing a procedure to recognize the father of a child conceived by artificial insemination); Minn. Stat. § 62Q.14 (2006) (preventing health insurers from restricting policyholders' access to infertility services).

Next, J.M.A. appears to argue that, because the phrase "biological mother" in Minn. Stat. § 257.54 (2006), the statute that provides for the establishment of the parent-child relationship, encompasses "any type of non-adoptive parenthood," a district court violates the public policy of Minnesota by enforcing a GSA if the district court relies on genetics alone.  But J.M.A. cites no authority for this proposition.  And the district court did not, in any event, rely exclusively on genetic testing to determine the parentage of the child.  The district court considered other evidence, including the GSA, the testimony of the parties, and the testimony of the doctor who performed the embryo transfer, to determine the child's parentage.   Finally, we note that the district court refused to decide whether the phrase "biological mother" applies to "any type of non-adoptive parenthood" when the argument was raised below and that it stated that "it is not necessary for the Court to address this issue to resolve the case." 

To the extent that J.M.A. argues that proof of giving birth to the child is the exclusive manner by which to establish the maternity under § 257.54, J.M.A.'s argument also fails.  Although that statute provides that maternity may be established by "proof of [the biological mother] having given birth to the child," Minn. Stat. § 257.54(a), it also provides other methods to establish the mother-child relationship.  See id., (b)-(c) (providing that the mother-child relationship may also be established by the Parentage Act, the voluntary recognition of the parties, or proof of adoption); see also Minn. Stat. § 257.34 (2006) (providing procedure for the declaration of parentage by the acknowledgement of unmarried parents). 

J.M.A. also cites a statute that voids any transfer of a child from a parent to another individual, other than by the adoption process or by a consent decree, for the proposition that GSAs violate Minnesota's public policy.  See Minn. Stat. § 257.02 (2006).  That provision provides only that "no parent may assign or otherwise transfer to another parental rights or duties with respect to the permanent care and custody of a child under 14 years of age."  Id. (emphasis added).  But because that provision does not define "parent," the statute does not prohibit a gestational surrogate from carrying a genetically unrelated child and transferring the child to the child's biological parent upon birth.  

Because there is no Minnesota legislative or judicial pronouncement that prohibits such agreements, we conclude that GSAs do not violate any articulated public policy of this state.  See Hollister v. Ulvi, 199 Minn. 269, 280, 271 N.W. 493, 498-99 (1937) (recognizing that the power of courts to declare a contract void as against public policy is "a very delicate and undefined power, and, like the power to declare a statute unconstitutional, should be exercised only in cases free from doubt") (quotation omitted).  By this opinion, however, we neither condemn nor condone gestational surrogacy.  That is not our function.  But a child has been born in this state as the result of the procedure, and the judiciary has been asked to determine the child's parentage and custody.  That is our function. 

III.      The district court did not err in its application of Illinois law.

            We next address the district court's determination of the rights of the parties under Illinois law.  The construction and application of statutes are questions of law, which we review de novo.  Brookfield Trade Ctr., Inc. v. County of Ramsey, 584 N.W.2d 390, 393 (Minn. 1998). 

            J.M.A. argues first that, if Illinois law applies at all, the district court should have analyzed the issue under the Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act (IGSA), 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 47/1-75 (2006), even though the parties signed their agreement before the act's effective date, because the "relevant date for a surrogacy contract under the IGSA is the execution date, not the signing date."  But the IGSA expressly provides that "[t]he provisions of this Act shall apply only to gestational surrogacy contracts entered into after the [January 1, 2005] effective date of this Act."  750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 47/75 (emphasis added).  Because the parties both signed the GSA in December 2004, before the effective date of the IGSA, the provisions of the IGSA do not apply here.    

            In the alternative, J.M.A. argues that even if the Illinois Parentage Act (IPA) governs parentage here, the district court erred in its application of the IPA because P.G.M. "did not comply with" the provisions of the Act.  We see no error. 

The IPA sets forth a procedure to determine parentage by the voluntary consent of the parties.  See 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 45/6(a)(1) (2006) (authorizing consent agreements provided that the parties certify that they have met a series of requirements before the child's birth).  The parties do not dispute that the GSA did not satisfy all of the statutory requirements for a consensual parentage determination.  But failing to comply with the statutory provision does not invalidate the contract.  See 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 45/6(a)(2) (providing that a defective consent agreement raises only a presumption of a parent-child relationship between the gestational surrogate and child).   Nor does it foreclose the district court from analyzing the child's parentage and custody in accordance with the law of the state chosen by the parties to govern those determinations, here, Illinois.  Therefore, the district court correctly looked to the IPA's next subsection, which creates a rebuttable presumption of J.M.A.'s parentage.  That subsection provides:

Unless otherwise determined by order of the Circuit Court, the child shall be presumed to be the child of the gestational surrogate and of the gestational surrogate's husband, if any, if all requirements of subdivision (a)(1) are not met prior to the birth of the child. This presumption may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence.

 

Id.

Thus, the district court properly determined that J.M.A. was the child's presumptive mother and that P.G.M. could rebut that presumption by showing that J.M.A. was not the child's mother by clear-and-convincing evidence. 

We agree with the district court that there is clear-and-convincing evidence rebutting the presumption that J.M.A. is the child's mother.  We agree with the district court that P.G.M. could overcome J.M.A.'s presumptive parentage by "meeting the substantive requirements of 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 45/6(a)(1)(A-F) . . . [and by using] genetic testing to support his position."  The evidence supports the district court's findings that (1) J.M.A. admitted, and genetic testing confirmed, that she is not the child's biological mother; (2) the child was conceived by using an anonymous egg donor; (3) DNA testing established that there is a 99.99% probability that P.G.M. is the child's biological father; (4) Dr. Seth Levrant performed the embryo transfer that resulted in J.M.A.'s  gestational surrogacy; and (5) the parties intended to enter into an agreement that complied with the relevant Illinois statutes.  Although the Illinois caselaw provides no guidance in this area, we conclude that the record evidence here satisfies the clear-and-convincing standard to rebut the statutory presumption of J.M.A.'s parentage.  The district court did not err, therefore, when it analyzed the child's parentage under the IPA, and, in doing so, concluded that P.G.M. had rebutted J.M.A.'s presumptive parentage.

IV.      The district court did not abuse its discretion by granting P.G.M.'s request to change the child's name.

 

J.M.A. asserts next that the district court abused its discretion by granting P.G.M.'s request to change the child's name.  This court reviews a district court's decision to grant or deny a name change for an abuse of discretion.  In re Welfare of C.M.G., 516 N.W.2d 555, 561 (Minn. App. 1994). This court will sustain the district court's findings unless they are clearly erroneous.  Pikula v. Pikula, 374 N.W.2d 705, 710 (Minn. 1985). 

            A district court "shall" grant an application for a name change unless:

 (1) it finds that there is an intent to defraud or mislead; (2) section 259.13 [relating to persons with felony convictions] prohibits granting the name change; or (3) in the case of the change of a minor child's name, the court finds that such name change is not in the best interests of the child. 

 

Minn. Stat. § 259.11(a) (2006).  The parties dispute only the third factor.  To determine the child's best interests, the district court may consider various factors, including:  (1) the length of time that the child has had the current name; (2) the embarrassment that the child may experience from bearing the present or proposed names; (3) the child's preference; (4) the effect that the name change would have on the child's relationship with each parent; and (5) the degree of respect that the present and proposed names have within the community.  In re Application of Saxton, 309 N.W.2d 298, 301 (Minn. 1981).  A district court should order the name change only when the evidence is clear and compelling.  Id. 

Here, the district court expressly concluded that it was in the child's best interests to grant the requested name change, although the district court did not analyze the Saxton factors.  But the record supports several of those factors by clear-and-compelling evidence.  First, at the time of the court-ordered name change, the child was less than one year old.  Thus, the child was known by the name that J.M.A. gave him for only a short time and was unable to express a preference for one name or the other.  Second, despite J.M.A.'s claim that P.G.M.'s chosen name "may cause difficulties or embarrassment for the child later in life," nothing in the record supports that claim.  Finally, the fourth factor requires consideration of the effect the name change would have on the child's relationship with each parent.  The district court found that there is only one biological parent involved in this proceeding. 

We see no abuse of discretion in the district court's granting P.G.M.'s request to name his child. 



V.        The district court did not abuse its discretion by rejecting J.M.A.'s testimony as lacking credibility.

 

Finally, J.M.A. contends that the district court "abused its discretion in finding that respondent was a credible witness and appellant was not."  But we "neither reconcile conflicting evidence nor decide issues of witness credibility, which are exclusively the province of the factfinder."  Gada v. Dedefo, 684 N.W.2d 512, 514 (Minn. App. 2004).   Here, the district court expressly stated that, after assessing the credibility of both parties, it believed P.G.M.'s testimony and did not believe J.M.A.'s testimony.  The district court is in the best position to evaluate witness conduct and demeanor. 

            Because we conclude that (1) the district court properly enforced the parties' gestational-surrogacy agreement, (2) the district court properly applied Illinois law and analyzed the child's parentage under the Illinois Parentage Act, and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting P.G.M.'s request to change the child's name, we affirm. 

            Affirmed.

           

 


[1] The district court found that P.G.M.'s disease "is successfully controlled, that he is in excellent physical health, and that he has a normal life expectancy for a man his age." 

[2] Sperm-washing cleanses the seminal fluid surrounding the donor's sperm and replaces it with a sterile solution.  The district court found that sperm-washing minimizes the likelihood of the transmission of HIV to the gestational surrogate.