Do I have to start the divorce over if he says his signature was forged?
First, which signature is he claiming is not his own? Did anyone witness his signature or the alleged forgery? Was his signature even required? You can go as far as outright asking him who did sign if it was not him if you feel comfortable doing that. At the least, you will learn if he’s accusing you of a crime.
Unless you committed fraud, the answer to your question is generally no. While it is easy to say no, the answer can also be maybe. The court does take accusations of fraud seriously. He will also need to contact the court and officially file a claim with the county clerk. In addition, he has the right to alert local and federal authorities; fraud is a crime in every state. In regards to divorce, a judge can consider his claim and reopen your divorce case. This can lead to amended areas where your ex-claims forgery, but rarely does it result in an overturned decision unless your spouse can prove you knowingly and willingly committed fraud in order to achieve your divorce or divorce settlement.
Your spouse also has a limited time to contest his signature. In some states, he would have only 30 days from the date of the finalization of your divorce to challenge a judge’s decision based on fraud. Contact an attorney or check your local state for their laws on the time limits for appealing a divorce decree.
Why Does He Claim Forgery?
Spouses might cry fraud for numerous reasons. Your spouse might be acting out because you have moved on with your life. Perhaps, you are about to remarry or move. He might feel cheated by the judge’s decision or have remorse. He might be attempting to blackmail you or get you to admit to something you did not do. The latter is common in cases of abuse where an ex-tries to control or manipulate his spouse after a divorce.
Most of the time, however, it is a lack of knowledge concerning the state’s divorce procedures. While processes can vary little or greatly between states, no state requires his signature for you to file for divorce or proceed through a divorce. Signatures are generally only required for the divorce settlement and court led or jointly mediated agreements—both of which generally occur in a no fault divorce. Even then, some states do not require his signature or agreement because the judge decides and issues his ruling. If someone does not agree, they have the right to appeal the decision. This is why a failure to sign papers and agreements will typically only delay divorce proceedings.
Other reasons accusations might arise are to purposely delay a court decision, to attempt to reopen a divorce case, or to amend a divorce order. It is also entirely possible that someone else other than you or he signed his name. Although, this is still unlikely, but it has occurred before.
How Does the Judge Decide Forgery?
Your spouse will have to provide the court with samples of his signature from past legal documents that are already on record. A judge will review the samples and compare them against the official documents filed with the court before deciding whether he has provided sufficient evidence to prove fraud. Even if a judge decides there is enough evidence, he will also decide whether it has any bearing on your divorce.
What Happens After Accusations of Forgery
If a judge has already issued his ruling on your divorce or settlement and your spouse did not speak up in court about his signature, a judge is unlikely to overturn his ruling or amend a divorce settlement. At that point, your spouse has already had ample time and notice to contest his signature and he chose not to do it. However, if your spouse failed to come to court, but you notified him, a judge is unlikely to overturn his ruling, but a judge might amend or have you both agree to a new settlement. A judge will most likely make both of you sign the new agreement in their presence or before an officer of the court, like a notary.
Protect Yourself and Know Your Rights
What the judge cannot decide without further proof is who committed the fraud or the intent behind it. If requested, a judge might provide local or federal authorities the documents for any investigation. An accusation of fraud is scary, but your spouse has to both legally attest and prove you forged his signature in a court of law with the intent to defraud.
If you are innocent, you should consider seeking legal advice or representation. They have a broader knowledge of your state laws, but they can also advise you of any recourse should a judge overturn your divorce too.