Name Change: Who To Notify

By Jennifer M. Paine

Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

Note: This is part 2 of a two-part series on name changes after a divorce. Part 1 addressed name changes of your ex-wife or children.

If someone in your family does change names, be sure to update at a minimum:

 

Social Security Administration: To update a Social Security Card, complete Form SS-5, the application for a Social Security Card, and mail or hand deliver it to any local office with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or a passport, and a certified copy of the order for the name change, such as a divorce decree. You can learn more online at www.ssa.gov.

Passport Agency:  To update a passport, mail or hand deliver a Renewal Application, along with two color photographs, proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and an original or certified copy of the order for the name change. Regional passport agencies may process applications the same day, for a special fee, but for most applications the agency retains the documents and returns them by mail with the updated passport. You can learn more online at travel.state.gov/passport.

Department of Motor Vehicles: Most state departments of motor vehicles will update a driver’s license upon receipt of an application, a copy of the current driver’s license, and proof of the name change, such as a certified divorce decree. (And of course a fee). Contact the local branch office to learn more.

Schools: For children, school staff, including teachers and medical personnel, should receive a copy of the order for the name change and a letter explaining what rights the parent with the different last name has. It is common for teachers to assume, for example, that a father with a different last name does not have “rights” to the child and, therefore, cannot consent to school discipline or receive notice of school events or emergencies.

Support Disbursement Unit: For cases with child or spousal support orders paid through the State Disbursement Unit (also known as the Title IV-D program or the IV-D service), notify the SDU of the name change immediately. In most states that means notifying them within 21 days of any name change. Otherwise, the SDU may not credit payments to the payor’s account or send them to the payee.

The change could take several weeks to complete, so keep accurate records of all payments made and all receipts to correct any accounting errors between the date the SDU receives notice of the name change and the date the SDU updates the account. The SDU is a large agency and errors happen. Contact an attorney in your area or the SDU to learn more.

 

Note: This is part 2 of a two-part series on name changes after a divorce. Part 1 addressed name changes of your ex-wife or children.

 

Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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