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When getting married, can a woman change her first name without having to file a name change petition with the courts?

Madison, WI |

I recently got married, and I am changing my first name as well as taking his last name. I had no problems doing this with SSA, and have already received a new SS card with my new name. The WI DMV, however, is refusing to make the first-name change on my driver's license without a court order. I am unsure as to how to proceed. I was under the impression that a woman could change her name when she got married without having to pay a court filing fee. Is this not true if it includes a first-name change? Do I have any recourse or options for changing my first name with the DMV? Or, is it at all possible to obtain a legal name change from the court using my marriage certificate (without paying the filing and notification fee?) How should I proceed from here? Thank you.

Attorney Answers 2

  1. Best answer

    Unfortunately, you are not permitted to change your first name through any other avenue than a civil name change action filed with the circuit court. This is evidenced by the the court's lack of power to restore a first name in the event of divorce. Under sec. 767.395, Wis. Stats., the divorce court only has the authority to restore a spouse's former surname (last name).

    My answer does not automatically make me your attorney or create a former-client/current-client relationship with you. I encourage you to speak with an attorney before acting upon any of the statements I make. If you would like to speak with me further about your issue, please schedule a free initial consultation (in person or over the phone) by calling my office at (920) 459-8490, or by emailing me at You can also visit for more information.

  2. First name, no. You'd have to petition the court for that. Fortunately, it's relatively common so you can do so with the appropriate forms. I'm licensed in California although they're usually online.

    Congratulations on your marriage and many years of happiness I hope are ahead of you.

    Ms. Johns can be reached at her Woodland Hills and San Diego offices at (866) 402-4038. Her email is and her office does offer free telephone consultations to Avvo askers. Ms. Johns is a lawyer although she is not your lawyer unless you have consulted with her and signed a fee or letter agreement confirming her representation of you. This Avvo response does not otherwise create a binding attorney client fee agreement. Ms. Johns and her employees are not tax or financial advisors and do not give tax or financial advice of any kind. For such advice, it is recommended that you consult with a tax or financial professional in that field.

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