(USA) Updating the SSA after divorce

Start by updating your name with the SSA before any other records. Complete the SSA-5 form ‘Application for a Social Security Card’. Show proof of your legal name change which can be;

  • Court order approving the new name, or
  • Divorce decree listing old and new names, or
  • Certificate of Naturalization showing the new name, or
  • Divorce decree that does not list both names, but you can show additional documents
  • If the document does not provide enough information for you to be identified or if the name change was more than 2 years ago you must provide an identity document in your former name. This should be a US driver on non-driver identification card or a US passport, even if expired.

You must present original identification documents or documents certified by the issuing authority. It is best to file by mail as the SSA prefers not to receive your primary identification documents by mail. That way the change can be processed on the spot and you won’t have a delay waiting for original identification to be sent and returned by mail.

If you are not a US citizen there are a number of additional identification documents required which together must prove identity, immigration status and work authorization. More information is provided on the SSA form, or contact the SSA directly.

If you file with the SSA in person, allow 3 working days for the change to be processed. If you file by mail, wait until you receive proof that your name change has taken place. Only then can you attend the DMV to request updated photo ID. The DMV will pull your record from the SSA and will only allow a name that is an exact match to what is on file with the SSA. Most financial institutions and a range of other companies require updated photo ID together with either your divorce decree or legal name change order.