• Judge Michael Donio

Ask the Judge: Do you feel that notaries are still needed in 2021?



Do you feel that notaries are still needed in 2021?


In a word, yes.


Notaries provide a valuable service for many legal documents. They authenticate the signatures of the person signing an agreement, a will or something of that nature. While a lot of things are going back and forth now by email and other mechanisms, the fact remains that you need integrity in the signing of documents to avoid legal issues down the road.


There have been some changes during COVID-19 where a notary can actually be in another room or even in an office and watch a person in another room or outside sign a document who presents proof of their identity to the notary, who then can notarize even if they are not in the same room. That is fine. However, to do away with notaries, I think, opens up the floodgates to many lawsuits concerning who signed a document and who did not. Take that together with most people’s signature that cannot even be read, and you can understand why it is important for somebody to be swearing that they had the person before them and watched them sign a document. Do I know that sometimes this is not followed? Yes, I do, and I have handled cases where it was an issue, both in court and in mediation.


In fact, I think that the penalties for notarizing something that you did not actually witness should be stronger.


Please also remember that all lawyers in the state of New Jersey, even though they do not carry a notary seal, can notarize a document simply by printing their name and then indicating that they are an attorney at law in the state of New Jersey. I do think that there are not as many notaries around as there were in previous years. I am not sure exactly of the reason why. However, the bottom line is I don’t think you will see any change in the law anytime soon that takes away a notary and/or their purpose. Especially in today’s world of internet fraud—and other types of fraud—I think that notaries provide an essential purpose, probably even more so now than in the past.


I pay child support for my oldest son. I am having a child with my new wife. Can I pay a less or nothing for my older child now that I have two children? My older child is 16 years old and her mom has an OK job.


Yes, you are still legally obligated to pay that child support until your child is what we call emancipated. Even though you had another child, you still have that obligation. However, that obligation of child support is always reviewable and modifiable by a court-based on the respective parties’ current job status and income. For example, if you lost your job or you are making substantially less money than you were when you enter into that agreement, and now have another child, perhaps a judge will be inclined to lower your child support payment. A lot of things will go into that equation. Your lawyer who handled your divorce or even yourself will have to file a motion to modify a child support and go before a judge in the family part in the county where you were divorced to seek any modification.


Judge Michael Donio served as a New Jersey State Superior Court Judge for 20 years before retiring on July 31, 2015. He now operates a legal consulting and mediation firm on the White Horse Pike. Donio can be reached by calling (609) 481-2919. Send your questions for his columns to askthejudge@hammontongazette.com.