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5 Steps To Changing Your Name After a Divorce

Starting over can be easier if you know how to update your ID

If you’re divorcing or are recently divorced, you might be contemplating changing your name back to your maiden name. If so, you likely recall how difficult the process was to change your birth name to your married name. A legal name change after a divorce can be a hassle, and the name change request process takes some time. However, by following these five steps, you can begin obtaining your new name or reclaiming your maiden name back.

Step 1: Obtain Your Legal Divorce Decree

The legal name change process beings with your divorce decrees. Typically, courts issue divorce decrees (sometimes referred to as “divorce certificates”) upon the finalization of the divorce. While the process varies by state, you can petition the court to include a court order regarding your new name (or, more appropriately, your old name) in the divorce decree.

If there’s a record of you changing your name change written into the decree during the divorce, that will be the record you use when you file your name change with the Social Security Association (SSA). In some instances, the divorce is finalized without an order indicating your name change.

When this occurs, you should work with the court to see if the decree can be modified. And don’t get intimidated. If you’re unable to work with the court to have the decree modified, you can still use past forms of ID such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, or passports to indicate the existence of your previous name.

If you have questions about your specific jurisdiction, it is best to seek out the skills of a local divorce attorney who can advise you on the best course of action in your city and state.

Step 2: Fill Out Form SS-5 and Submit It to the SSA

To enact your legal name change, you will need to inform the government. This is done by filling out a Form SS-5 with the SSA and submitting it through mail or in person. This can be the most complicated step in the process, so you’ll want to have an attorney look over your form before submitting it. You’ll also need to include documentation proving the validity of your name change:

  • An original or certified copy of your divorce decree: Remember, not having this is not a dealbreaker in most states, but you may have to petition the court for a court-ordered name change.
  • Your social security card: The SSA requires a copy of your original social security card. Your social security number (SSN) will remain the same.   
  • A valid photo ID: This can be any government-issued photo ID such as driver’s licenses, passports, or military IDs.
  • Proof of US citizenship: This can be a certified copy of your birth certificate or your current passport.

There are two ways to submit the SS-5 name change request form. First, you can mail the form to your nearest SSA location. Mailing is not an ideal way to submit if you’re worried about losing your identification documentation. That’s why it’s better to choose the second option, simply walking into your nearest SSA facility and submitting the form in person.

Step 3: Update Your State Identification

If you’ve submitted all the necessary documentation and filled out your SS-5 correctly, you can expect your new social security card to arrive in the mail in a few short weeks. When that happens, it’s time to begin the long and arduous process of updating your various forms of ID and financial information.

Begin with your state’s form of identification. This typically means visiting your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) facility to obtain a driver’s license that reflects your new name. Some states allow for online applications, so be sure to survey the options available in your state and choose what’s best for you.

Step 4: Update Your Financial Accounts

Once your new social security card and state ID indicate your name change, it’s time to reach out to your bank and let them know about your new identity. Typically, you can update your banking information by walking in with your updated photo ID and a copy of your divorce decree.

This is also the step where you should update your credit cards and inform any other financial businesses or accounting relationships of your legal name change.

Step 5: Update Your Passport

This option should really be performed parallel or in conjunction with steps 3 and 4. If you intend to travel out of the country for work or pleasure, you’ll need to obtain a new passport representing your legal name change. US passports are issued by the state department and are necessary to travel in and out of the country. If you’ve changed your name, your previous passport will no longer be valid.

Waiting for your new passport to arrive can talk some time, so it’s best to submit your new application quickly.

Other Considerations

Now that you’ve updated your various forms of IDs and banking information, sit down and make a list of any accounts that still need to be updated. Think of online retail accounts, streaming apps, social media handles, billing information, and anything else that might be important to you or how you identify in and around your community.

Should I Speak to a Divorce Attorney?

If you’re contemplating divorce proceedings, consider sitting down with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible. A complicated and emotionally taxing process can be made easier with the benefit of a lawyer by your side. A divorce lawyer from a seasoned firm can provide essential legal advice while guiding you through the nuances of divorce court.

When using a database such as Super Lawyers, finding a divorce attorney operating in your current jurisdiction would be best.

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