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Name change

Name change procedure is governed by Wisconsin Statutes 786.36-.37 (external link). This page describes the general court procedure for name changes across the state. For specific county procedures, contact your clerk of circuit court or check the county circuit court site.

Wisconsin also recognizes the common law right to change your name through consistent and continuous use as long as the change is not done for a fraudulent purpose. This common law right also applies to name change upon marriage.

Procedures

Basic steps to handling a name change : Step-by-step guide with a checklist and references to necessary forms.

Forms

File all forms (including both copies of the petition) with the clerk of circuit court office in your county. A filing fee is required.

Eligibility

You must be a resident of Wisconsin. The petition must be filed in the county of your residence. The court may grant the petition "if no sufficient cause is shown to the contrary."

For a person under 14 years of age, the petition may be submitted by:

  • Both parents, if both are living, or the surviving parent.
  • The guardian or person who has legal custody of the minor if both parents are dead or if parental rights have been terminated by judicial proceedings.
  • The minor's mother, if the parents have not married, if the child is not adopted, and if paternity of the minor has not been established.
  • One parent, if that parent has been unable to locate or serve the other parent with the petition. If the other parent is notified and objects, and has not abandoned the child, the court will require consent of the non petitioning parent.

There are some restrictions for people engaged in professions for which the State of Wisconsin requires a license. See Wisconsin Statute 786.36(3) (external link). People required to register as sex offenders are prohibited from changing their names. See Wisconsin Statute 301.47(2). (external links)

Publication

Wisconsin Statute 786.37 (external link) requires publication of the Notice of Hearing and Order for Hearing in a newspaper authorized to carry legal notices for your community. You must contact the newspaper directly to publish a third class notice (i.e., printed once a week for three weeks) prior to the hearing date. The newspaper will charge a fee for this service. After publication is completed and paid for, the newspaper will mail a Proof of Publication affidavit to you.

Under Wisconsin Statute 786.37(4) a judge may waive the publication requirement if a Petition for Confidential Name Change is filed and the judge determines that publication of the name change request could endanger the petitioner.

Hearing & filing the order

Arrive on time for your hearing at the assigned courtroom and inform the deputy clerk of your presence. Come forward when your case is called and give the Proof of Publication affidavit to the clerk. If you are requesting a confidential name change, you do not have to provide the Proof of Publication affidavit to the clerk.

You will be placed under oath and asked for the information on the petition (name, desired name, etc.). If your petition is granted, the judge will sign the Order For Name Change. The deputy clerk will then give the case file back to you with directions.

Take the case file back to the clerk of circuit court office and purchase at least two certified copies of the Order for Name Change. A fee will be charged for certified copies.

If the person whose name is changed or established was born or married in this state, the clerk of the court shall send to the state registrar of vital statistics, on a form designed by the state registrar of vital statistics, an abstract of the record, duly certified, accompanied by the fee prescribed in ยง69.22, which fee the clerk of court shall charge to and collect from the petitioner.

If you were born or married outside of Wisconsin, you will need to write to that state's vital records office (external link) and ask what is required to change a birth or marriage certificate.

Another certified copy of the order should be taken to the Register of Deeds Office for filing. There will be a filing fee.

You may wish to buy an additional certified copy of the order for your records.

Name change for newborns

Wisconsin Statutes 69.11(3)(b) (external link) allows you to change your child's name without a court order, for up to 365 days after his/her birth. To do this, contact the Wisconsin Office of Vital Records at the address above.

Correcting or amending a birth certificate

Wisconsin Statutes 69.11 and 69.12 (external link) set out the procedure for correcting a birth certificate. This process is used when an item is incorrect or omitted on a birth certificate.

The state registrar of vital statistics may make certain changes without a court order. The state registrar may amend the name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, parents' surnames and marital status of parents. For correction of a birth certificate within one year of the child's birth, contact: Wisconsin Office of Vital Records (external link), P.O. Box 309, Madison, WI 53701-0309, (608) 266-1371

After one year from the child's birth, a court order is required to change a birth certificate. To obtain a court order, the circuit court will require one or both of the following forms: (1) Court Order to Amend a Wisconsin Birth Certificate, which is available at the Wisconsin Vital Records Office, and (2) Petition to Correct Vital Record. Contact the clerk of circuit court to find out whether both forms must be filed and whether the clerk has local form for a Petition to Correct.

After you fill out the required forms, you should attach any necessary supporting documentation and file your forms with the clerk of court. If you are providing a certified copy of your birth certificate, the clerk of court will abstract the necessary information from the birth certificate for the court record and return the certified copy of the birth certificate to you. Counties charge a filing fee to correct a birth certificate.

If your request is approved, the judge will sign the Order to Amend a Wisconsin Birth Certificate. The clerk will instruct you on how to file the order with the state registrar. The state registrar charges a filing fee.

Resources

The Wisconsin State Law Library website provides access to additional resources on name change (external link).