The Basics of Changing Your Name After a Divorce
When you are seeking a divorce, you should be sure to let your attorney know if you plan to change your last name as part of the legal proceeding. When you divorce, you are permitted to change your last name from your spouse’s last name to either your maiden name or a previously-used last name. Your request to change your name must not be for any illegal or immoral purpose, nor can the request be made with the intention to evade creditors.
If you decided to change your name as part of your divorce, you will have to wait until an official Judgment of Absolute Divorce is issued by the Court before changing your identification and records to reflect your new name. Your attorney can assist you in ordering a “certified” copy of the Judgment of Absolute Divorce which may be required by certain agencies when changing your name.
Obviously, it is important to let friends, family, employers, and professional contacts know that your name has changed, but there are many other folks who you will need to notify:
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) – You will need to have your name changed on your driver’s license or State ID card and, unfortunately, there will be a fee to update your name with the MVA. The law requires that you notify the MVA within 30 days after you change your name by court order (divorce) or by marriage.
Social Security Administration (SSA) – You will need to apply for a replacement Social Security card that reflects your new name so that the SSA has accurate information on record. To change your name with SSA, I typically recommend that clients make an appointment with their local SSA office and bring a certified copy of the Judgment of Divorce, as well as 1-2 other forms of ID with them to the appointment. You can fill out a SSA card application (1 page) while you wait. Additional information is available on www.ssa.gov.
Banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions (be sure to request new credit cards and order new checks)
Creditors and lenders – Remember it is illegal to change your name to avoid payment of your debts!
Schools (for alumni updates, etc.)
Doctors, dentists, pharmacists and other health care providers
U.S. Postal Service (USPS) – While there is no USPS form for a name change, you may want to leave a notice for your postal carrier in your mailbox to let them know you have changed your name.
Telephone and utility companies
Department of Vital Statistics - You may want to change a last name on a birth certificate when there are issues concerning paternity or if you have a surgical sex change procedure.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Maryland Taxing Authority
Registrar of Voters – It is easiest to update your voter registration AFTER you have updated your information with the MVA.
Department of Social Services (if you receive state assistance benefits) – The easiest way to do this is to go to your local DSS office.
Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services – Those on parole, probation or who are registered sex offenders have certain obligations to notify DPSCS of any name changes.
Finally, if you have a Last Will and Testament, trust, Power of Attorney, Health Care Advance Directive or other estate planning document, you may want to contact your attorney about replacing your old documents with new ones to reflect your new name.