Why do I have to sign the Complaint in a divorce action and have it notarized?

Last updated March 2017

Do I have to notarize the divorce papers?

A client recently asked me why she had to sign the VERIFICATION page of the complaint. I explained that in New York State, a complaint if not legally sufficient unless the person seeking the divorce signs the verification page and notarizes it. And that is because the law requires litigants in a divorce to act and plead their case “honestly.” In other words, by signing the verification page the plaintiff is basically saying: “this is true. This is what happened. My spouse did the things I complained of in the complaint. I swear to it.”
So on the verification you would see “SS” which means signed and sworn. The swearing element is important because once you do that, you are under oath and if it is later determined that you lied, you can be brought up on perjury charges which is a criminal offense. Of course, in recent years, I have not heard of a litigant in a divorce being brought up on perjury charges for being less than accurate in a divorce complaint. But theoretically it can happen.
The only time a complaint or counterclaim/answer does not have to be verified or sworn to is in the case of ADULTERY. Adultery is a crime in New York State and everyone has the right against self incrimination so no one is required to verify a complaint or counterclaim where adultery is alleged.
I hope that made sense.