Notarize your marital settlement agreement

To my knowledge, there is no law requiring California marital settlement agreements be notarized.  That is not to say that you should not do it.  Routinely where one party is represented by an attorney and the other party is self-represented, aka, “in pro per,” I was taught by my first law mentor (who was himself a family law specialist) to have the “pro per’s” signature notarized.  But why do we do it?  The primary reason is that it is an anti-fraud measure.  Sometimes people sign off on an agreement and change their mind later.  You may have felt that way after you bought a car.  Similarly, with a divorce settlement, perhaps the person may change their mind and later claim that they did not actually sign the document,  or their signature was obtained by fraud or duress.  Well, if a person is claiming their signature is fraudulent, the notary acknowledgment is a pretty good rebuttal to anyone making that claim.  I think it also is a good point to bring up against a duress argument or even an “I didn’t know what I was signing” argument because if you go through all the trouble of having your signature notarized, and even pay your notary a few bucks, you know what you are doing and your acts are deliberate.  The notarization helps to give trappings of formality to the settlement signing (much like people do for estate plans) so it registers as a significant event for all concerned.  Anyway, those are my thoughts.  One final thought is that until the settlement agreement is filed as a judgment, one would still have an existing contract between the parties, and again the notarization is a good anti-fraud device because to enforce the contract (in the absence of a judgment) you need to prove it was properly executed (poof, notarized signature is evidence that the pro per signed it and you can find your witness to the event in the person of the notary).

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