You've decided it is time to change your name - be it for personal reasons like a gender transition, marriage, divorce, or just because you don't like the name given to you at birth.
Wisconsin recognizes name changes done through the proper channels, and each county follows a different process.
This article goes over the basic steps to changing your name in Wisconsin and covers how to:
- Identify the right process for you
- Figure out what paperwork should be filed
- Start using your new name
Wisconsin's Legal Name Change Process
For starters, you must be a Wisconsin resident to be eligible to change your name in Wisconsin. Either minors or adults may petition to change their name, but the process is a bit different depending on the life change associated with your name change.
For name changes not associated with marriage or divorce, for example, a hearing will need to be held to petition the court for the name change. You will also need to publish notice of the name change in a local paper.
Name Change Through Marriage
Most name changes happen after marriage and it's been this way for centuries. You may decide to take your spouse's last name, hyphenate both of your current last names, or create a fresh new name entirely. It's up to you! But, your new name post-nuptials won't be official until it is documented on your marriage license.
Wisconsin requires a certified copy of a marriage license as proof of name change to recognize a name change through marriage. After the wedding, you can get a certified copy of your marriage certificate at any Register of Deeds office in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services also maintains a record of birth, death, marriage, and divorce records from October 1907 to the present, so their office can also serve as a resource.
Once the ceremony is held, the license duly issued, and the certified copy of the marriage certificate ordered, make sure you have several certified copies on hand. Banks, insurance companies, and even your financial planner will likely need copies to allow you to officially change your name on file.
Name Change During Divorce
When a marriage is over, keeping your soon-to-be-former spouse's last name can be a tough decision. Parents might keep their marital last name to match that of their children, or to maintain the name listed on their professional licenses. Others might want to kick their spouse – and their last name – to the curb.
The good news is that changing your name after divorce is among the easier parts of the often difficult divorce process. Wisconsin law requires a court granting a divorce to allow either spouse to resume using a former last name.
There's no limit other than that it must be a former, legal name – it could be a maiden name, a former name, or a former spouse's last name. Make sure to ask the court for this change and it will be included as part of the divorce order.
Minor Name Change
Changing your name as a minor is a slightly different process. If you are under 14, you will need to have at least one parent involved in the name change documentation. If you are over 14, there is a separate form to fill out which is the same as the form used by adults.
Both processes require filling out other documentation requests such as:
- Notice and Order for Name Change Hearing Form
- Order for Name Change Form
- Other forms as required by your county
You will then need to:
- Publish the Notice and Order for Name Change Hearing in a local newspaper
- Attend the name change hearing
- File the Order for Name Change after the hearing
Petition for a Change of Name
Marriage and divorce involve a legal process. That makes it easy to change your name at the same time. But for other situations, you will need to petition a court for an order to change your name.
Any Wisconsin resident can file a petition to change their name. The petition must be filed at your local circuit court and is a bit of a process.
- Fill out a petition form and submit it to the local court
- Receive a date for a court hearing on the petition
- Publish notice of your name change petition in a local newspaper, once a week for three weeks, and give proof of publication to the court
- Attend the hearing and bring your birth certificate
The court can issue an order changing your name 'if no sufficient cause is shown to the contrary.' That's legal speak for unless there's a reason not to order the name change.
Once the court orders the name change, copies of the order should be secured from the court clerk. Use these copies to update your birth certificate, Social Security card, and driver's license.
Restrictions on Name Changes
Wisconsin imposes some restrictions on licensed professionals (such as doctors, nurses, and lawyers), who can't change their name if doing so would be unfair to another practitioner or mislead the public. Registered sex offenders are barred from changing their names as well.
Any name change sought for fraudulent or illegal purposes will not work either. You're unlikely to get your name changed to Aaron Rodgers, for example.
File the Appropriate Paperwork With Government Agencies
A marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order serves as proof that your name has changed. You'll want a more commonly accepted ID, however.
Contact your local Social Security office first and get your Social Security card updated. You can then go to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to change your driver's license or identification card. Voter registration, car title certificates, and your birth certificate can then be updated.
Start Using Your New Name
Tell family, friends, neighbors, and employers about your name change. This will allow them to update their records and otherwise make your name change known.
You'll also want to change your name with your bank, credit card company, insurance company, and utility provider. Don't forget to update your email and social media accounts.
Get the Forms You Need in Wisconsin
Changing your name is a process. US Legal's Wisconsin name change forms can help take the guesswork out of the Wisconsin name change process.
For any tricky questions, consult our FindLaw Attorney Directory to find an attorney near you who can assist you personally with the name change process in Wisconsin.