In recognition of October having been declared Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this post and next week’s article focus on trying to assist individuals who have faced such devestating violence.
This is the first of a two part article on this subject. While not widely known, the Social Security Administration had established a procedure in 1998 for victims of family violence to obtain a new Social Security number. The Administration states:
“Public awareness campaigns stress how important it is for victims to develop safety plans that include gathering personal papers and choosing a safe place to go. Sometimes the best way to evade an abuser and reduce the risk of further violence may be to relocate and establish a new identity. Following these changes, it also may be helpful to get a new Social Security number.
Although Social Security does not routinely assign new numbers, we will do so when evidence shows you are being harassed or abused or your life is endangered.
Applying for a new number is big decision. It may impact your ability to interact with federal and state agencies, employers and others. This is because your financial, medical, employment and other records will be under your former Social Security number and name (if you change your name).”
Here is an overview of the process.
- Gather all the police reports, medical records, court records, protection orders and any other evidence corroborating the violence such as letters or emails from the perpetrator.
- Contact an attorney to assist in completing a name change through Probate Court. Be sure to seek to have the records of the name change sealed.
- After obtaining the name change order, then contact the Social Security Administration and initiate the process for the new Social Secuirty number.
- You will need to submit the supporting documentation outlined in number 1 above along with your birth certificate and proof of citizenship or immigration status. If obtaining the documentation is unsafe for you, the Administration will assist.
- The timeframe to obtain the new number varies from two months to longer. Be patient.
- After obtaining your new Social Security card and name change order, you can request a new birth certificate in your new name.
- With these documents, you can obtain a new driver’s license, passport, etc.
All documents must be the originals or certified copies by the issuing agency. If you are requesting new Social Security numbers for children of whom you have custody, you will need to present the original documents establishing custody along with proof of their identity and Social Security numbers. Even individuals with poor credit and some criminal records have been succesful in this process. Each year about 1,000 domestic violence victims go through this process to obtain a new identity in an attempt to escape from their abusers. Of course, there are many implications to consider before undertaking this drastic course of action.
To go to the Social Security website click here or call 1-800-325-0778 for more information.
I will discuss more about this topic in my blog article next week.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.