So it's time to change your name. That may be cause for congratulations, commiserations, or some serious paperwork – most name changes happen due to marriage, divorce, or through a formal court proceeding. How to change your name in Wisconsin depends on your situation. Fortunately, figuring out what to do and where to go isn't as difficult as you might think. We'll cover how to:
- Identify the right process for you;
- Figure out what paperwork should be filed; and
- Start using your new name.
1. Identify and Follow the Correct Wisconsin Legal Name Change Process
For many people, a name change is cause for congratulations. Most name changes happen after marriage and it's been this way for centuries. That may involve one spouse taking the other spouse's last name, one hyphenating their previous last name with their spouse's last name, or something else. Whatever you choose to do, it's your marriage license that will prove it.
Wisconsin recognizes a certified copy of a marriage license as proof of name change. Once the ceremony is held and the license duly issued, get copies. They'll come in useful for changing your name with government agencies and on your identification and important documents.
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's. Others might want to kick their spouse – and his last name – to the curb once and for all.
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 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.
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'll need petition a court for an order changing 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. Expect to:
- 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; and
- Attend the hearing and bring your birth certificate.
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 won't work either. You're unlikely to get your name changed to Aaron Rodgers, for example.
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 license.
2. 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 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 DMV to change your driver license or identification card. Voter registration, car title certificates, and your birth certificate can then be updated.
3. 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 providers. Don't forget to update your email and social media accounts.
Get the Forms You Need in Wisconsin
Changing your name is a process. While in the legal world it's a fairly routine one, the cost of hiring an attorney or figuring out the paperwork can weigh you down. Consider skipping both the attorney and the hassle by using our Wisconsin name change forms.