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What's in a name? A post-divorce primer

Published On: Dec 24 2013 09:42:37 AM CST
Updated On: Oct 10 2013 07:35:53 AM CDT
Divorce decree, court blurb

By attorney Jonathan Gilbert, Special to THELAW.TV

So, you just got a divorce, and you're ready to get back out into the world again. Congratulations! Did you change your name as part of the final decree? If you did, then you've still got plenty of work to do, and a lot of it you have to do yourself.

Start with a plan. Many government agencies and some companies are going to require an original or a properly-signed certified copy of your divorce decree or court order, so you'll want to do a little homework before you start running around to get a general idea of how many certified copies you're going to need from the courthouse. If you got a few properly certified copies when the final order was entered, that's probably enough to get you started. You can always go back for more.

A word about mail or personal delivery. If you're applying to a government agency to change your name by mail, make sure to use a traceable delivery method, such as USPS Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation, USPS Priority Mail with Signature Confirmation or USPS Express Mail (for overnight delivery requests). Certified mail is also a traceable but may take longer. Other delivery services may work as well if they can delivery to a P.O. Box or if the agency has a street address.

Now you're ready to work your plan.

But wait -- one last thing before you get started. Remember to be patient when you're making these changes. Every governmental entity and every company has its own processes, and you are going to need patience to be able to fill out their forms and sit in their lines. None of this is fun, but you will feel better each time you make a successful change. You may want to call ahead to each place to see if they will make an appointment for you so that you don't have to wait in line and can make sure you're dealing with the right person.

So now, your first step? The big three.

Start with your driver's license. You'll need that to replace your social security card, and it will help you with a lot of the other changes as well. You may also be able to change your voter registration at the driver's license office, too.

Your next step? Social security. You can apply for a new card in person at your local social security office or can apply by mail.

Step three? A new passport, which would then give you two forms of picture ID and a new social security card. You can do this by mail, and the Bureau of Consular Affairs offers expedited service for an additional fee. Again, if you're applying by mail, which is Bureau's preferred way of doing things, make sure to use a traceable delivery method.

After that, you should work through a good, thorough checklist that includes all aspects of you business and personal life, including your children's lives, too. These that run the range from the very basic -- such as notifying the post office -- to the more complex -- such as meeting with your estate planning advisors to review your wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other legal documents.

The checklist below is meant to be a thought-provoking guideline. After the first three, they are in no particular order. You should consider putting them in whatever order makes the most sense for you in your particular location. Also, it's always a good idea to check with your attorney to see if she or he has any additional suggestions. Good luck!

Name Change Notification Checklist

1. Get a new driver's license or state identification card. You may be able to change your voter registration at the same time.

2. Get a new Social Security Card. You can accomplish this with Form SS-5. You can do this by mail or in person at your local Social Security office. You will need an original or certified copy of the divorce decree and the other documents listed in the application. If you are on Medicare, you can also make changes under the Medicare program at the local Social Security field office as well or by calling 1-800-772-1213.

3. Get a new passport. You can usually accomplish this by mail with either Form DS-5504 or DS-82, depending on how old your passport is at the time you apply for a new one. See the name change section at the U.S. Department of State website.

4. Change your name on all bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, stock certificates, bonds, annuities, CDs etc.

5. Change your name on all credit cards, store charge cards, etc.

6. Notify all of your creditors and debtors, including mortgage lender or landlord and your auto finance company.

7. Notify the your home telephone company, your cell phone carrier, and other utilities such as gas, water, electricity, cable, etc.

8. Notify the post office and your mail carrier.

9. Change car titles and registration.

10. Notify your Homeowner’s Association, Condominium Association, and other Community Associations.

11. If you live in a condominium or a gated community, notify the security services and front gate or front desk.

12. Notify your insurance companies.

13. Change you name on all professional licenses and other federal, state, and local licenses.

14. Notify your employer and their HR department, and work with them to make any necessary changes to any retirement/pension accounts.

15. Inform co-workers and those with whom you have a working relationship such as clients, customers and prospects.

16. Change email addresses (only if they reflect your old name). You may want to ask your employer set up an alias email address for a few months with your former name so that your emails don't get bounced.

17. Review online accounts for information that needs to be changed, such as your Facebook account, Twitter, Google+, etc.

18. Notify any place you have a membership (library, gyms, clubs, and affinity programs such as frequent hotel guest and frequent flyer programs, etc.)

19. Change legal documents such as wills, living wills, trusts and powers of attorney. (This may be a good time for you to review these documents with your attorney for other matters, such as beneficiaries, too.)

20. Change notifications/permissions for child(ren)'s doctors, and school(s) and other activities.

21. Notify the Department of Vital Statistics/Records (issuers of birth marriage and death certificates), if necessary. Most states do not require, and will not permit, this after a divorce but may or will permit it after a change for certain other reasons.

22. Change voting registration if you did not do this at the time you changed your driver's license.

23. Notify the Department of Veterans Affairs, if appropriate.

24. Notify your state public assistance office (Department of Human Services, Department of Children and Families, etc.) to change your name on your EBT card, to change your name in your state's Medicaid program, and to change your name in their records for other programs.

25. Change your name with any company in which you are an officer, LLC manager, or director. Make sure those companies change the state corporate records where you are an officer or director. Also, change the state records for any fictitious names you own.

26. Change your business cards and stationery.

27. If you are not a U.S. citizen but have a green card, notify USCIS (INS) and change name according to their procedure. There is a $450 non-refundable filing fee for filing USCIS Form I-90.

28. Change magazine and newspaper subscriptions.

29. Check with credit reporting agencies (TRW, TransUnion, Equifax) to make sure that you new name is reflected in their records.

30. Consider an announcement through social media or by mail or to friends and relatives.

Jonathan S. Gilbert is the president and CEO of the West Palm Beach, Fla., law firm Jonathan Gilbert, P.A. He is also mediator and a business consultant.