Some women find it therapeutic to return to their maiden name after divorce, a way to fully let go of the past and turn their focus to the new life that waits. Others, well, they can care less. Either they are unaware that the process is relatively simple, or they have had their ex-husband's last name for so long that they couldn't imagine anything else. Whatever the case may be, whether or not to change your name is extremely personal and you should only do it when you're ready (if you even want to, that is).
To legally change your name, you need two different documents: your birth certificate and divorce decree. If you do not have either one of these documents, visit the New York State website for information on how to obtain these items. If your divorce decree has a provision that grants you permission to change your name, then all you need to do is contact a few key government agencies. The most important agency you need to notify is the Social Security Office because they have to issue you a new social security card. You can either bring a physical copy of this form to your area Social Security Office, or you can send it by mail with the requested documentation.
After you receive a certificate stating that your request for a name change has been approved from the Social Security Office, you have to make your way to the Department of Motor Vehicles so you can be issued a new license or state identification card.
If your divorce decree does not have a provision that grants you permission to change your name, you have to contact either your attorney or the court that issued the decree and request that it be amended. While most courts in New York State allow amendments, some do not. In that case, you will need to file a Petition for Name Change with the court. Information on doing so can be found on the NYCourts.gov website. After you receive authorization from the courts, you may bring appropriate documentation and paperwork to both the Social Security Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
After you obtain your new Social Security Card and state issued identification card, you may use these to change account information with banks, utility companies, your employer, health and/or life insurance providers, and other companies or institutions for which you have accounts with. It is important to note that some of these companies may require that you produce a copy of your divorce decree before they will process the changes, so make sure that you have a few copies on hand.