In an October, 2012 decision, Kings County Civil Court Judge Harriet Thompson, in Matter of Kobra (Hossain), denied on cultural grounds the applications of a mother, Tamannatul Kobra, to change the names of her children: four and nine-year-old females. The two petitions were supported by the consent the girls’ father, Mosharaf Hossain (Ms. Kobra’s husband).
The mother sought to remove the name “Hossain” (or Hossian) because because of its association with Muslims.
Ironically, in January, 2009, Kings County Civil Court Judge Dawn Jiminez-Salta had granted an application by Mr. Hossain, on consent of his wife, to add “Hossain” to the name of his older daughter (then six). Judge Jiminez was satisfied that the interest of the child was substantially promoted by the infant child assuming the surname of her biological father.
Here, the mother sought to again change her nine-year-old daughter’s name; this time to a completely different name: from Siratul Muntaha Hossain to Oporajita Neeladri. The child would not bear any surname that would identify her with either parent. The mother also sought to change the younger child’s name from Heemika Hossian to Himika Himadri. Under the parents’ plan, neither child would have any name that would identify her as a child of either parent-not the surname of either parent, nor any name that would identify them as relatives or even sisters for that matter.
The mother asserted that in Bangladesh and India, it is customary for everyone in “a typical household” to have completely different names. Nevertheless, Judge Thompson noted that both of these children were American-born citizens and have adapted, embraced and are a part of our American culture.
Applying the American cultural norm, Judge Thompson found that “sharing the surname by the child with the parent she or he lives with is a legitimate point of concern because it minimizes embarrassment, harassment and confusion in school and social contacts.”
This court will not deviate from that which is deeply rooted in the American Diaspora which definitively supports our social customs and long standing accepted practices in New York as well as many other states for family members to share in one of the custodian’s parents name.
This common practice is to alleviate confusion in the child’s day to day life and obviate the need to explain to school administrators and teachers, doctors, insurance companies and government agencies why the children have completely different names from their parents and from each other.