Many people are aware of the notarization requirements to complete a power of attorney, sell or buy real estate, obtain a loan, or execute a will. If you’re like many others, you may not be familiar with the strict standards set in place by the US government and foreign nations when couples are seeking an international adoption. In many ways, an adoption is among the most enjoyable reasons to retain a notary professional. It’s rewarding because a child become part of a new family. However, there are some stringent requirements that make an international adoption challenging. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering adopting a child from another country – or if you’re a notary professional looking to get involved with international adoptions.
Federal Law on International Adoptions
Because an international adoption takes place across national borders, the US Department of State is involved with the process. In general, documents used in conjunction with international adoptions – or any international transaction – must be “authenticated” or “legalized” before they’re considered valid in another country. The process typically involves placement of seals or stamps, possibly including notarization. Paperwork that may be involved for an international adoption includes:
- Powers of attorney;
- Birth, death and marriage certifications;
- Affidavits, oaths and affirmations, particularly those appearing on application materials;
- Deeds; and,
- Other legal records related to the adoption transaction.
The specifics needed for authentication depend on the governing law of the foreign country, but your adoption is likely to follow one of two proceedings:
- Home Country is a Signatory to The Hague Convention. Obtaining a special apostille certificate will generally meet the authentication requirements for an international adoption.
- Home Country is not a Signatory: If the home country of the child you want to adopt isn’t a signatory to The Hague Convention, which covers adoptions, you may need to go through the “chain authentication method” where you literally follow a document through various phases of validity.
- For notarized documents, you must follow the proper procedures according to your state’s laws on authentications.
- Documents at the state level, such as those that originate in a state court or are maintained by the state, must be authenticated by your Secretary of State’s office. The Secretary of State’s office is also responsible for verifying the authentication of notarized documents listed above.
- Documents issued by federal agencies must be certified by the US Department of State Authentications Office.
- Any documents under seal of a federal court must be first verified by the Justice Management Division of the federal court system. From there, they must also be authenticated by the US Department of State Authentications Office as mentioned above.
- A foreign embassy located in the US is usually the last link in the chain authentication method. A consulate or embassy can only authenticate the seal of the US Department of State, which is why there are various steps before you can obtain the final, properly executed document for an international adoption.
The Role of a Notary Professional in International Adoptions
The notary public’s job when executing documents related to international adoptions does not differ greatly from other transactions. As a state-appointed official, a notary serves as an impartial witness in performing tasks intended to deter fraud that might otherwise be widespread in the execution of critical documents. In the context of international adoptions, the role of a notary is to:
- Follow the laws and rules of the state where they’re commissioned, without inserting personal judgment or discretion into the process.
- Verify the identities of the parties who are signing important documents, such as the records required to complete an international adoption within the confines of the law.
- Ensure that the parties are signing through their own free will, and without intimidation.
- Make sure the people signing a document are aware of the contents and the overall transaction – though a notary cannot express on opinion of the material itself.
- At times, the laws of a state may require a notary to place the signer under oath to affirm the truth of the statements contained in the documents.
The duty of impartiality is a key component of a notary professional’s responsibilities. They cannot act when they have a personal interest in the transaction or documents, and they cannot refuse services based on up race, ethnicity, religion, politics and other factors.
Requirements of the Notary Public
In order to properly take on the role of a notary and perform the functions the job requires, a notary public must abide by certain standards. As with most tasks related to notary services, the exact requirements are defined by state law. However, there are certain elements that are common across most jurisdictions.
- The signers of all documents required to be notarized must be present before the notary when executing.
- A notary public should review the documents for make sure it contains the necessary language for certification purposes. Scanning the paperwork will also help identify blank spaces or incomplete information.
- The notary public must verify the identity of the signatories, which usually is accomplished through checking state issued ID. The notary professional will also assess willingness to sign.
- Once all parties have signed, the notary public is required to complete the notary verification within the document, including the date and seal.
- In some states, a notary should also record the transaction in a journal.
Certain additional rules apply when an international adoption is involved:
- In many states, a notary should have more than a year remaining before their commission expires. This is because it can take several months for officials in the child’s home country to review all the necessary documentation.
- Some adoption agencies may require documents to be embossed, regardless of state requirements for a photocopy-able ink stamp.
- All documentation is subject to review and approval by your state Secretary of State or other government agency, in order to obtain the apostille or other authentication paperwork. This process is intended to verify that the notary public has a valid, unexpired commission in the appropriate jurisdiction.
Choosing a Notary Service
Finding the right notary service for any important transaction is important, but it may be even more critical when dealing with an international adoption. If documentation is incomplete or contains errors, improper notarization can actually delay the process – or even result in denials. Therefore, you should look for services that have obtained the proper credentials and training in your state. It’s also essential to understand how notary professionals charge for their services.
It’s often useful to consider mobile notary services to assist you with notarization for an international adoption. There are a number of benefits that make a mobile notary public a wise decision:
- You’ll Save Time: A notary in an international adoption must verify the identities of multiple signatories; these individuals must be present during execution and supply proof of identification. A mobile notary service can be onsite as necessary to expedite the process.
- You’ll Save Money: When you save time, you save money – because your time has value. Instead of spending a day traveling to a notary’s office to obtain authentications, you can have the professional come to your home or office.
- You Still Get the Same Reliable Service: A mobile notary public has the same qualifications and training as any notary public in your state. You’ll never have to worry about the quality of the work or whether the job was completed in full. The only difference is that you schedule a mobile notary public in advance so they can accommodate your schedule.
The international adoption process requires certain authentication of the documents involved, which means you must rely on a notary public that has the credentials and training to handle these transactions. Choosing the right notary professional can make or break the process so look for companies that know the relevant rules and provide top customer care, including the mobile services that make your life easier.