To file for marriage dissolution, you must first collect and prepare the required forms and find a notary for divorce papers who will certify their authenticity. Notarizing divorce papers is mandatory in most states of the country. The primary purpose of this action is to avoid any possible fraudulent activities related to legal paperwork and to make the documents legally valid.
In this article, we will find out in which states notarization of documents is compulsory in the divorce process, which forms should typically be signed in the presence of a notary public, and what the potential consequences of not meeting these requirements can be. In addition, we will share some information on what to do if you need to get your papers notarized.
What Is Notarization and Why Is It Important in Divorce Papers?
Notarization of documents is a procedure during which the notary signs and stamps the forms provided by spouses in their presence, certifying the validity of information specified in the documents.
Notarization of divorce papers is required to:
- Confirm the identity of the person or persons who prepared the papers for marriage dissolution.
- Ensure that both spouses know what information is specified in the documents and are not forced to sign them.
- Guarantee that the data presented in forms is accurate and can be trusted.
- Prevent fraud and document forgeries.
If you are interested in “Do divorce papers need to be notarized in my case?” the answer will most likely be affirmative because notarization of divorce documents, or at least some of them, is mandatory in most states. However, before preparing the paperwork, you should check with the local court clerk or the state statutes on divorce whether you need to have papers notarized and which ones should be signed by a notary in your state and county.
After discovering that this legal process is necessary in your state, you need to think about how to get papers notarized and where to do it. If you do not go to a notary, even though it is necessary in your state, the court will most likely not accept your documents, and you will have to resubmit them to file for divorce.
If you have already notarized and submitted the basic paperwork to the clerk’s office but later brought other papers needed for the trial that were not signed in the presence of a notary, the judge may postpone the hearing. This will complicate and prolong your case.
Which Divorce Forms Need to Be Notarized?
Each state has its own list of papers that must be prepared for a divorce case and notarized. To start the marriage dissolution process, you first need to determine which form must be submitted in court and signed in the presence of a notary, and then get your divorce papers notarized.
Here is a list of documents that most often require notarization in different states:
- The Initial Complaint or Petition for Divorce.
To initiate a divorce, one or sometimes both spouses must file a Petition or Complaint with the court. This document usually contains basic information about the parties, their marriage, and their requests to the court regarding the divorce terms. The notarization of this legal paper confirms that the facts stated in it are true, and the parties sign it without pressure or intimidation.
- Answers to The Divorce Petition.
The respondent who was notified of the lawsuit by getting the Summons and the Complaint or Petition must provide an answer to it. In the response, the defendant may agree or disagree with the petitioner’s requests, which will significantly affect the further course of the divorce process. It is important to sign this paper in front of a notary to confirm its authenticity.
- Property Settlement Agreement.
Parties conclude this contract to identify how the property will be divided between them after the divorce. This document contains all agreements regarding splitting marital property, including real estate, financial assets, debts, liabilities, etc. Notarization of it is required to ensure that both parties are familiar with and agree to its contents and no decisions were made against their will.
- Marital Settlement Agreement.
In this document, spouses indicate all their arrangements regarding child-related and property division issues. Based on the terms of the Marital Agreement, the judge will issue a Divorce Decree, which is an official court order on how different divorce matters should be dealt with. Does a Settlement Agreement need to be notarized? Yes, parties will likely need to sign it in the presence of a notary, who will first make sure that both spouses do it without coercion and agree to all its conditions.
- Child Support Agreement.
Parties prepare this legal paper to determine the terms of their minor children’s maintenance after the divorce. For the judge to be sure that the document can be trusted and is valid, spouses need to notarize it. A notarized Child Support Agreement confirms that parties have jointly decided on the amount and proportion of child support, child custody arrangements and visitation schedules, and other child-related matters.
- Final Divorce Decree.
All divorce terms, including property division, child and spousal support, and child custody issues, are specified in the Divorce Decree. This document officially ends the divorce process and confirms you were granted a divorce. So that the judge can verify it, parties must sign it in front of a notary public, thereby expressing their agreement with all the information in the document. If you still doubt, “Does the final divorce decree need to be notarized?” it should be mentioned that this document often requires notarization to become legally binding.
- Financial Affidavits.
In these forms, each spouse should provide detailed information on their financial status to ensure fair decisions on finance-related issues during a divorce. They must indicate the level of their income and a list of expenses and debts. Notarization of Financial Affidavits is often required to certify the truthfulness of the information and to confirm that neither spouse is hiding their assets.
- Witness Statements.
If your case is contested and you have some disputed issues with the other party, or if it is necessary to prove the other spouse’s wrongdoing that led to a fault-based divorce, you may need to provide witness statements to support your claims in court. To confirm their veracity, such documents must be notarized.
Please note that this list of documents that require notarization is not final and will depend on the specific state laws. To get information on what divorce papers need to be notarized, you can visit the local court clerk’s office or try to find it on the judicial branch website.
Many forms have a separate field or a blank for the notary’s signature that helps determine which papers need to be stamped. In some states, you will have to sign all paperwork in front of a notary, while in others, this requirement will work only for Financial Affidavits or Settlement Agreements. Also, it would be reasonable to seek consultation from a professional family law attorney to get more information on the notarization process.
How to Get Divorce Papers Notarized
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to notarize divorce papers, regardless of the state where you live:
- Prepare the necessary papers and fill them out. First, you should determine which forms are required in your case and then fill them in attentively. Make sure they don’t contain errors or incorrect information.
- Find a notary who can notarize your papers. To do this, you can use the Internet search or visit the nearest bank, post office, or court. Sometimes, you can find a notary next to big shops or in government offices.
- Appear in front of a notary in person. To notarize divorce papers, you need to visit a notary’s office. In addition to the set of paperwork, you must have an identity card with you. It can be a passport or driver’s license.
- Sign the documents in front of the notary. Since a notary public must notarize your signature, you should not sign the forms ahead of time.
- Answer the questions. The notary may ask you a few questions about your documents to make sure you understand them. Provide honest answers without hiding any information.
- Get the notary’s signature and stamp. After verifying your identity and reviewing your papers, the notary must sign and stamp them. This will serve as evidence that they are notarized. When notarizing the divorce paperwork, the notary not only confirms its validity but also checks the spouse’s data to make sure that this is the person whose name is on the papers.
- Pay the notary fees. Their amount can be different, but it is usually not high. How much does it cost to get divorce papers notarized, on average? Notary fees range from $5 to $75, depending on the state and how many documents need to be notarized.
- File documents with the court. You can submit the original notarized forms to the county clerk’s office to start the divorce process. However, before that, you will need to make several copies of the papers.
How long are notarized divorce papers valid? According to current legislation, most notarized papers are considered valid for 5 years from the date of signing. However, this deadline may differ for specific documents in your state, so you should check your local rules for notarizing paperwork.
Can a regular notary notarize divorce papers? Yes, any licensed notary public can sign and stamp your divorce papers regardless of the case. According to the rules, each notary must be at least 18 years old, complete a training course, and pass an exam to be authorized to notarize documents.
Notarization of divorce paperwork is an important stage of the process, which guarantees the legality of documents and the truthfulness of information contained in them. This procedure confirms that your papers are ready for court filing.