Keep those documents
Name changes may cause difficulty obtaining ID
By Robert Cloud
Waupaca County Clerk of Courts Terrie Tews believes more people need to save their court documents.
“I don’t think people understand the importance of divorce records,” Tews said.
She said women especially need to keep court documents related to a divorce in order to collect Social Security.
“For them to collect Social Security benefits, they need verification of a name change,” Tews said. “They have to show a correlation between their current name and all the names they have had between now and birth.”
She said the same issue of documenting name changes applies to widows who remarry.
Beginning in September 2020, the same documents will be needed to verify name changes when applying for the new driver’s licenses, also known as real ID.
Real ID is required by federal law and will be necessary in order to board an airplane.
The problem, Tews said, is state law requires counties to retain court documents related to divorce judgments for only 30 years.
County clerk of courts offices maintain wills for 100 years, probate and felony case files for up to 75 years, civil judgments and criminal traffic files for 20 years and traffic tickets for five years.
If the divorce judgment is no longer available, the alternative is a certified copy of the divorce certificate.
Michael Mazemke is Waupaca County’s register of deeds.
He said his office can provide a certified copy of a divorce certificate if it was issued from Jan. 1, 2016, to the present.
Divorce certificates dating back from 1907 to 2015 are available from the State Vital Records Office in Madison.
Mazemke said application forms for Vital Records divorce certificates are available at his office.
The register of deeds office is located in the Waupaca County Courthouse.
Applications and instructions are also available online at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/vitalrecords.
It takes at least three weeks to process a certified divorce certificate.
Tews suggested people applying for real ID who are using divorce certificates rather than court documents should contact their local DMV office in advance.