If a contract is signed between 2 parties and is not notarized or witnessed by anyone other than the 2 affected parties, is it still "legal" &binding

Asked on Aug 25th, 2011 on Contracts - West Virginia
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This contract is between a divorcing husband and wife over a monetary arrangement. One of the parties wants out of the agreement and I just wanted to see if this document is held to the same standard as a document that was witnessed/notarized or if it''s more like a "verbal" agreement and won''t hold up.
William/J Joanis
partner at
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Answered on Sep 04th, 2011 at 7:52 PM
In general, a contract does not need to be notarized or witnessed to be binding.  (Of course there are exceptions, such as those imposed for wills, for recording real estate documents, and possibly, involving divorce arrangements.)  But for most contracts, we do not generally require them to be witnessed or notarized, to be "legal."  The notary removes the issue as to the identity of the parties signing the contract.  But, it is not usually a prerequisite of a binding agreement.  Oral agreements are also generally binding (with some exceptions, such as contracts relating to the debts of another, real estate, or promises that will take over a year ro perform), but sometimes hard to prove.  It may be that as a matter of the family law in your state, the agreement must be notarized or witnessed.  Otherwise, it is up to the intent of the parties.  Your family law lawyer should help you on this.  If you don't have a lawyer helping you, I assume the amount involved with the contract doesn't really justify that expense. 
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