The Commissioner in Alabama Divorce
What is a Commissioner?
In Alabama, when a divorce document requires notarization, most counties allow documents to be notarized by a Notary Public. However, there are a few counties in Alabama—namely Baldwin, Madison and Mobile—which require the Plaintiff to ask the Court Clerk to appoint a person of the Plaintiff’s choosing to witness the testimony of the Plaintiff (and Plaintiff's witness) and sign those documents instead of a Notary Public. In these counties, the Commissioner signs instead of a Notary, on the Plaintiff and Witness Affidavits. All other divorce documents that require notarization are still supposed to be notarized by an actual Notary Public including the Complaint, custody and support affidavits, the Settlement Agreement and also Defendant’s Answer and Waiver.
Though it seems antiquated now, the logic behind this commissioner appointment process was that the commissioner, having been hand-picked by the Plaintiff, would someone who knows the Plaintiff and is in the best position to know if the information in the Plaintiff’s Affidavit is accurate, unlike a Notary Public who is usually a stranger to the Plaintiff.
Procedure for Appointing a Commissioner
- The Commissioner Plaintiff selects must be 19 or older, of sound mind, and not related to Plaintiff or Defendant by blood or marriage. Plaintiff must choose someone who is willing to witness the signing of two affidavits, Plaintiff’s Testimony and an Affidavit of Residency (Third Party Testimony).
- File Request for Appointment of Commissioner with the Court Clerk.
- Once the Clerk issues the commission, which may take a few days depending on how busy their office is, Plaintiff must get a copy of the commission.
Procedure for Taking of Testimony by Commissioner
Once Plaintiff has received the issued Certificate of Commission, the Commissioner has the authority to take the testimony of the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff’s witness.
- Commissioner takes PLaintiff's Testimony.Plaintiff reads the testimony from the Plaintiff’s Affidavit aloud in front of the Commissioner. Plaintiff signs, then Commissioner signs the certificate at the bottom. The Commissioner’s name goes on the top line, where the form says “TO.” The next blank is where you write the names of two witnesses. You will be one witness, and the other will be the person you choose to sign your Affidavit of Residency (see below). Fill in the names of the Plaintiff and Defendant.
- Commissioiner takes Witness' Testimony. Choose another person over the age of nineteen and of sound mind to sign your Affidavit of Residency, also known as a Witness Testimony or Witness Affidavit. The witness cannot be the same person as your Commissioner, but unlike the Commissioner, the witness can be a family member. The Witness needs to be able to swear under oath that he or she knows you have lived within the State of Alabama for the past six months. The person you choose will be the Affiant on this form and will need to sign it in front of your Commissioner (if required) or a Notary Public. Your Affiant will need picture ID to prove his or her identity. The top part of the form should match all of your other forms. The Commissioner or Notary Public fills out the bottom part of the form.
- Plaintiff files the original and two copies of the completed and signed Plaintiff and Witness Affidavits should be filed at the Court Clerk’s office.