Notarizing Adoption Documents: Tips and Advice

We are in the fourth month of adoption paperwork, trying very hard to get everything wrapped up. Since we have never done anything like this before it’s been one lesson after another. Most of it has gone smoothly but one of the most frustrating parts so far has been getting documents notarized and apostilled. You’ve probably heard of a notary before– someone who verifies a signature. But I had never heard of an apostille before beginning the adoption process. What is it? An “apostille” is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. Basically it’s another layer of paperwork.


We have sent documents to the Secretary of State’s office in Iowa, South Carolina and North Carolina in order for them to be apostilled. But as we were wrapping up our paperwork we had about 30 documents that needed an apostille so we decided to stop at the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office on our way through the capitol last week. I figured this was just another hoop to jump through, another waiting room to sit in. But I did not expect more than half of our documents to get thrown out. In order to save someone else a headache, here are three things to look out for when you’re having your adoption paperwork notarized:

1. SIGNATURES: One of our reference letters was not approved because it had been notarized, but not actually signed! Oops! The purpose of a notary is to verify a signature, so I guess I can see how this would not be approved.

2. MIDDLE INITIALS: All of our medical documents were thrown out because the notary at our doctor’s office did not sign her name with her middle initial. Given the fact that our medical documents were the most difficult to complete this was extremely disheartening. Because her notary application included her middle initial, she should have used her middle initial in her signature. I was very mad at the letter H that day, but we’ve since made up.

3. DATES: It seems perfectly rational to me that someone may type up a letter and not have it notarized until a later date, hence making the dates on the letter and the notarization not match. But in the eyes of the Secretary of State’s office this is a BIG no-no. So to save yourself a whole lot of headache, I’d just advise keeping dates off your letters. Because the silly thing is, dates aren’t required, but if you do happen to include them and they don’t match you’ll be in big trouble!

I’m sure there are many other ways to mess up a document you need apostilled, but these are the three areas that gave us hang ups. So now we have to go back to all of the people that created these, have the documents redone, signed and notarized again, so we can return to the Secretary of State and try to have our apostille process completed once again. Yay! Let’s hope we don’t get stuck in any more red tape for a while.


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