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January 11, 2011

The Pile of Poo Divorce

The lady calls with a common request. She has some divorce documents that need to be notarized. I ask the usual screening questions. Who is signing? What ID do they have? How many signatures need to be notarized? Mobile notaries with a few years of experience become quite good at sensing trouble ahead. This assignment felt wrong. The lady was evasive with my initial questioning, changing her answers several times. It was a judgment call for me to make as to granting her an appointment. Her plea as to the urgency “it has to be submitted to the court tomorrow morning”; caused me to agree to meet with her. But, with a large amount of “doubt”, my meeting would be a location near to me. She agreed, we would meet in an hour.

She had spoken of needing two signatures notarized. Somehow, that became eight signatures. Four for her and four for the other party to the divorce. It’s a common misunderstanding, the number to be notarized vs the number of people being notarized. However, having been in this situation many times I was sure that she understood when we spoke on the phone. Going from two to eight is not the end of the world. And, she had readily agreed to meet at a place of my convenience. So, I asked to see what needed the eight notarizations. Unlike many of my meetings, this was to be cash, due to little travel being required. First thing, even prior to showing me a single document she wanted to pay. That really caused my “trouble ahead” bells to ring. Declining the offered cash, I requested, again, to see the documents.

As she pulled out the papers I noticed large amounts of “white out” on the papers; all of them. Signatures had been changed, dates changed, even the Venue entries. There were so many layers of the stuff I thought the papers would crack if folded, even slightly. I looked at the signatures on the “sworn to and subscribed” sections. Her signature, inexplicably, varied from document to document, only one signature was similar to the signature on her passport. The signature of the male was consistent with the “photocopy” of his ID, and that was to also be notarized!

I don’t know if it’s legal to notarize documents with gobs of “white out”. I do know how to properly redact an improper entry. But, IMHO, these docs were dead. She stressed that all of the entries had to be notarized, and there was no access to her husband. She related that I could proceed to notarize her husband’s signature by matching it to the photocopy of his passport. Clearly, this was going nowhere. It was time to halt the proceedings and inform her of what the proper notary procedures entailed. She could care less, after my explanations. She kept repeating that I was “creating a problem for her” and that it had to be completed now.

I understand that you have a problem. However, I too have a problem. My problem is that your documents have signatures without the affiant present to verify and oath. Finally, she did understand I was unwilling to proceed. Then another shocker! “I have been told there is a nearby that will just stamp these documents for a fee”, “do you know where they are?” Lady, the notarization of your husband’s signature without his presence is illegal. You are asking me to assist you in finding someone who is willing to commit a crime. First, I know of no such person or place. Second, I strongly advise you to abandon this course of action. It’s also illegal to ask someone else to commit a crime. You now know that notarizing your husband’s signature without his presence is illegal. You should proceed only using legal methods.


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