Wisconsin Legal Name Change
Below are the relevant state statutes, as well as links to the form petitions and instructions for obtaining a legal name change for yourself or a minor.
If, after reviewing the information below, you find the need for further legal assistance, you should visit this online legal service.
If you are seeking a marriage name change or a divorce name change, your marriage license or divorce decree can serve as your legal name change document. Thus you can proceed to Name Change Notification, the final step of the name change process. Otherwise, read the information below and follow the links to learn about obtaining a legal name change.
Wisconsin State Code:
Sec. 786.36 Changing names, court procedure.
(1)Except as provided in sub. (3) or s. 301.47, any resident of this state, whether a minor or adult, upon petition to the circuit court of the county where he or she resides and upon filing a copy of the notice required under s. 786.37 (1), with proof of publication, may, if no sufficient cause is shown to the contrary, have his or her name changed or established by order of the court. Subject to sub. (1m), if the person whose name is to be changed is a minor under the age of 14 years, the petition may be made by whichever of the following is applicable:
(a) Both parents, if they are living, or the survivor of them.
(b) The guardian or person having legal custody of the minor, if both parents are dead or if the parental rights of both parents have been terminated by judicial proceedings.
(c) The minor’s mother, if the minor is a nonmarital child who is not adopted or whose parents do not subsequently intermarry under s. 767.803 and if paternity of the minor has not been established.
(1m) (a) 1. Subject to subd. 2., the name of a minor under 14 years of age who has 2 living parents may be changed on the petition of one parent if, in addition to filing a copy of the notice required under s. 786.37 (1), with proof of publication, the petitioning parent files proof of service as required under s. 786.37 (2) and the nonpetitioning parent does not appear at the hearing on the petition or otherwise answer the petition.
2. If the nonpetitioning parent cannot be found or provided with notice, the name of a minor under 14 years of age who has 2 living parents may be changed on the petition of one parent if, in addition to meeting the filing requirements under subd. 1., the petitioning parent has made a reasonable attempt to find and provide notice to the nonpetitioning parent, but with reasonable diligence the nonpetitioning parent cannot be found or provided with notice, and the nonpetitioning parent does not appear at the hearing or otherwise answer the petition.
(b) If the nonpetitioning parent appears at the hearing on the petition or otherwise answers the petition and shows that he or she has not abandoned the minor, as described in s. 48.415 (1) (a) 3., (b), and (c), or failed to assume parental responsibility for the minor, as described in s. 48.415 (6), the court shall require the consent of the nonpetitioning parent before changing the name of the minor.
(2) The order shall be entered at length upon the records of the court and a certified copy of the record shall be recorded in the office of the register of deeds of the county, who shall make an entry in a book to be kept by the register. The fee for recording a certified copy is the fee specified under s. 59.43 (2) (ag). 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 s. 69.22, which fee the clerk of court shall charge to and collect from the petitioner. The state registrar of vital statistics shall then correct the birth record, marriage record or both, and direct the register of deeds and local registrar to make similar corrections on their records.
(3) No person engaged in the practice of any profession for which a license is required by the state may change his or her given name or his or her surname to any other given name or any other surname than that under which the person was originally licensed in the profession in this or any other state, in any instance in which the state board or commission for the particular profession, after a hearing, finds that practicing under the changed name operates to unfairly compete with another practitioner or misleads the public as to identity or otherwise results in detriment to the profession or the public. This prohibition against a change of name by a person engaged in the practice of any profession does not apply to any person legally qualified to teach in the public schools in this state, nor to a change of name resulting from marriage or divorce, nor to members of any profession for which there exists no state board or commission authorized to issue licenses or pass upon the qualifications of applicants or hear complaints respecting conduct of members of the profession.
(4) Any change of name other than as authorized by law is void.
Sec. 786.36 – ANNOT.
History: 1973 c. 263; 1977 c. 449; 1979 c. 32 ss. 63, 92 (14); 1979 c. 221; Stats. 1979 s. 786.36; 1981 c. 245; 1983 a. 447; 1985 a. 315 s. 22; 1993 a. 301; 1995 a. 201; 1999 a. 83; 2003 a. 52, 65, 326; 2005 a. 443 s. 265.
Sec. 786.36 – ANNOT. Although a woman may adopt the surname of her husband subsequent to marriage by customarily using that name, there is no common law, case law, or statutory requirement in Wisconsin that she do so. If the woman continues to use her antenuptial surname, her name is unchanged by the fact that marriage has occurred. In re Petition of Kruzel, 67 Wis. 2d 138, 226 N.W.2d 458 (1975).
Sec. 786.36 – ANNOT. The state’s interest in identifying a convicted felon by his current name during incarceration and while on parole was sufficient cause to deny a name change petition. Williams v. Racine County Circuit Court, 197 Wis. 2d 841, 541 N.W.2d 514 (Ct. App. 1995), 94-2930.
Sec. 786.36 – ANNOT. Wisconsin recognizes the common law right to change one’s name through consistent and continuous use as long as the change is not effected for a fraudulent purpose. State v. Hansford, 219 Wis. 2d 226, 580 N.W.2d 171 (1998), 97-0885.
Sec. 786.36 – ANNOT. Although s. 69.15 (1) (a) provides for changing a name according to an order in a paternity action, it does not provide authority to order a name change in a paternity action without complying with the procedural requirements for a name change under this section. Paternity of Noah J.M. 223 Wis. 2d 768, 590 N.W.2d 21 (Ct. App. 1998), 97-2353.
Sec. 786.36 – ANNOT. A legal name change gives a person a positive right to use that new name. That positive right may be relinquished by the person’s conduct in the carrying of his or her name. If the person uses another name, others have the right to call the person by that other name and to create and file documents under that name. State v. Tiggs, 2002 WI App 181, 256 Wis. 2d 739, 649 N.W.2d 709, 01-2685.
Sec. 786.36 – ANNOT. In the Name of the Father: Wisconsin’s Antiquated Approach to Child Name Change in Post-Divorce and Paternity Proceedings. Ritterbusch. 83 MLR 279.
Sec. 786.36 – ANNOT. Women’s names in Wisconsin: In Re Petition of Kruzel. MacDougall, 1975 WBB No. 4.
786.37 Change of name, notice of application. Before applying to the court for changing or establishing a name, the applicant shall publish a class 3 notice under ch. 985 stating the nature of the application and when and where the application will be made. This section does not apply to the name change of a minor if parental rights to the minor have been terminated and guardianship and legal custody transferred under subch. VIII of ch. 48, and the minor has been placed in a permanent foster home or a permanent treatment foster home, where the guardian and legal custodian have petitioned to change the minor’s name to the name or names of the minor’s foster parents or treatment foster parents.
Sec. 786.37 Change of name, notice of petition. (1) Before petitioning the court to change or establish a name, the petitioner shall publish a class 3 notice under ch. 985 stating the nature of the petition and when and where the petition will be heard.
(2) If the petition is for the name change of a minor under 14 years of age who has 2 living parents and if the petition is being made by one parent of the minor, the petitioner shall, in addition to publishing the notice under sub. (1), serve a copy of the notice and petition on the nonpetitioning parent in the same manner as a summons is served under s. 801.11 (1).
(3) This section does not apply to the name change of a minor if the parental rights to the minor of both parents have been terminated, guardianship and legal custody of the minor have been transferred under subch. VIII of ch. 48, the minor has been placed in a permanent foster home or a permanent treatment foster home, and the guardian and legal custodian of the minor have petitioned to change the minor’s name to the name or names of the minor’s foster parents or treatment foster parents.
Sec. 786.37 ANNOT.
History: 1975 c. 261; 1979 c. 32 s. 63; 1979 c. 330 s. 13; Stats. 1979 s. 786.37; 1987 a. 403; 1993 a. 446; 2003 a. 65
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