- You can now sign certain documents, such as affidavits and statutory declarations, with a qualified witness by videocall where you are unable to have them witnessed in person.
- You can also sign certain documents electronically where you are unable to sign by hand (i.e., where you don’t have access to a printer), simply by entering your full name into the signature block.
- If you are unable to have your documents properly witnessed by a qualified witness, the Court will accept documents for filing without such witnessing, but you’ll need to be available at a later date to swear or affirm the truth of the contents of the document.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia introduced temporary special measures to assist with the swearing and affirming of Court documents. The measures come as the current COVID-19 environment poses significant challenges to having your Court documents sworn or affirmed in the presence of a qualified witness.
The latest practice direction was enacted on 1 September 2021. You can view the practice directions here.
Videoconferencing to witness documents
As a means of alleviating pressures which you might face in your State or Territory due to the current pandemic environment, the new practice directions allow you to have family law documents, such as an affidavit, witnessed by videoconference where you are unable to have your documents witnessed in person.
This means that you can meet with a qualified witness via video link, where they can see you swear or affirm your affidavit or statutory declaration and then sign it in front of them in a virtual space. Then, the qualified witness might require that you post the original documents that you have signed to them so they can affix their stamp and credentials.
For clients of Family Law Resolutions, our team members are qualified witnesses who can witness your documents for the Court. If you’ve booked a videoconference with us to witness the signing of your document and then sent us your originals, we can also submit the documents to the Court on your behalf.
Electronic signing as substitute for pen and paper
There may be circumstances where you are working from home or in isolation, and don’t have access to a printer. In those situations, you might be unable to print your documents for signing. Where this is the case, the Court has also made special provisions to make your life easier.
The Court will accept documents for filing that have been electronically signed by you and/or your legal representative. In this instance, documents may be signed electronically by affixing an electronic signature or by typing your full name into the relevant space in the signature block.
However, we should stress that you should always endeavour to sign your documents by hand where you can.
Signing without a qualified witness
In the event that you are unable to have your documents witnessed by a qualified witness in person or by electronic means, the Court will accept your documents for filing that have been signed by you alone, and without the witness. However, in these situations, you must make yourself available to the Court by telephone, videoconference or in person at a later date to swear or affirm the contents of the document are true and correct to the best of your knowledge, information and belief – should the presiding judicial officer require it.
Please note: an exception to this new rule is an Affidavit for eFiling Application (Divorce) which must still be witnessed by a qualified witness.
We’re here to help
For our clients, where you have documents which require witnessing for the Court, but you find yourself unable to locate someone to witness them in person, you can call Family Law Resolutions on 1800 357 000 to arrange a videoconferencing appointment. One of our friendly team will be able to guide you through the process.