Wisconsin Name Change Law

Name Change – General – Wisconsin

Note:  This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law applicable to an action for change of name in the State of Wisconsin, but does include basic and other provisions.

Name Change Action Allowed: In Wisconsin, a person may change their name by filing an action in the Circuit Court with appropriate forms.

Is there any reason why a person might not be allowed to change his or her name? Yes.  The court must find that the absence of a sufficient reason for denying the request.  In effect, the Court must find that the requested name change is consistent with the public interest.  A person is not allowed to change their name in order to avoid judgments or legal actions against him or her, or to avoid debts and obligations.  A person can not change their name to defraud any person.

Must the child agree to the name change? No, but the court may consider the wishes of a child old enough to express their wishes in considering whether to grant the Petition.

Must the parent(s) of the minor agree to the name change? No, but there objections would be considered by the Court in determining whether sufficient cause was present to deny the requested change of name.

Requirements for Name Change Order: For an order of name change to be granted, the court must find compliance with the statutory requirements of notice and the absence of sufficient cause to refuse the requested name change.

Is Publication of a Notice Required? Yes.  The Petitioner must publish notice of the Petition, the requested relief and when and where the application will be made.  The Petition is published as a class 3 notice.  This requires 3 printings, once each week for 3 consecutive weeks.

Who must be provided notice of the Petition? The General Public in order to allow those interested individuals to appear and make their objections.

Can individuals “object” to my Petition for Name Change? Yes.  Any reasonable objections made to the court may influence the court’s findings as to whether the change of name is consistent with the public interest.

Procedures:

The process for obtaining a name change for an adult in the State of Wisconsin begins with the filing of the Petition. The Petition, for a minor under the age of fourteen, must be presented by:

(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 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. 767.60, except that the father must also make the petition unless his rights have been legally terminated.

Next, the Petitioner must publish the Notice. The Petitioner must obtain a date from the Clerk of the Court for the formal presentation of the Petition to the Court. The Notice is then published in a local newspaper designated by the Court and informs the general public of the relief requested and the date and time that the formal application will be made to the court.

After publication is complete, the Petitioner must submit proof of publication to the Clerk of the Court. This is accomplished by filing an affidavit provided by the newspaper verifying the publication. The affidavit is attached to a copy of the published notice and filed with the Clerk.

At this time, proof of publication having been filed, the Court if satisfied there are no sufficient reasons to deny the relief may grant the Petition for Name Change.

Additional Information and Instructions:

Statutes:

Changing names, court procedure:

(1) Except as provided in sub. (3) or s. 301.47, any resident of this state, whether 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 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. 767.60, and if paternity of the minor has not been established.

(a)(1) Subject to subd. 2, he 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.

(a)(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. [Wisconsin Statutes, Actions and Proceedings in Special Cases, Chapter 786 Disposition of lands of wards; specific performance; change of names; establish heirships, § 786.36.]

Change of name, notice of application:

(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, 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.[Wisconsin Statutes, Actions and Proceedings in Special Cases, Chapter 786 Disposition of lands of wards; specific performance; change of names; establish heirships, § 786.37.]

Newspaper Publication

Definitions: As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise:

. . .
(1m) “Insertion,” when used to indicate the publication of a legal notice more than one time, means once each week for consecutive weeks, the last of which shall be at least one week before the act or event, unless otherwise specified by law.

(2) “Legal notice” means every notice required by law or by order of a court to be published in a newspaper or other publication, except notices required by private and local laws to be published in newspapers, and includes all of the following:. . .

(c) Every summons, order, citation, notice of sale or other notice that is intended to inform a person that the person may or shall do an act or exercise a right within a designated period or upon or by a designated date.

. . .

(6) “Substance” is an intelligible abstract or synopsis of the essential elements of the official action taken by a local governing body, including the subject matter of a motion, the persons making and seconding the motion and the roll call vote on the motion, except that ordinances and resolutions published as required by law need not be republished in proceedings, but a reference to their subject matter shall be sufficient. [Wisconsin Statutes Newspaper Publication, Chapter 985, Publication of Legal Notices; Pubic Newspapers; Fees, Section 985.01.]

Method of notification:

(1) Except as otherwise provided by law, a legal notice shall be published in a newspaper likely to give notice in the area or to the person affected. Whenever the law requires publication in a newspaper published in a designated municipality or area and no newspaper is published therein publication shall be made in a newspaper likely to give notice.. . .
[Wisconsin Statutes Newspaper Publication, Chapter 985, Publication of Legal Notices; Pubic Newspapers; Fees, Section 985.02.]

Classes and frequency of legal notices: There shall be 3 classes of legal notices under this chapter. The designated number of insertions is the minimum required by law, and the frequency may be increased at the discretion of the requisitioning agency.

. . .

(3) Class 3 notices.

(a) All notices designated as class 3 notices require 3 insertions.

. . .
[Wisconsin Statutes Newspaper Publication, Chapter 985, Publication of Legal Notices; Pubic Newspapers; Fees, Section 985.07.]

Proof of publication:

(1) Affidavit of printing. The affidavit of the editor, publisher, printer or proprietor of any newspaper, or of his or her foreman or principal clerk, of the publication of any legal notice, annexed to a copy of the notice clipped from the newspaper, and specifying the date of each insertion, and the paper in which it was published, shall be received in all cases as presumptive evidence of the publication and of the facts stated therein.

(2) Time of filing. Such affidavit may be filed with the proper officer at any time after the last day of the publication of such notice, unless the filing time is otherwise specified.. . .
[Wisconsin Statutes Newspaper Publication, Chapter 985, Publication of Legal Notices; Pubic Newspapers; Fees, Section 985.12.]


Inside Wisconsin Name Change Law