How do I get my family law documents witnessed during COVID-19?
Like many other Countries around the world, the Australian Federal Government has put severe restrictions in place to limit ‘non-essential’ social interactions between people. We are now frequently being asked is “how do I get my family law documents witnessed when I am not supposed to be interacting with anyone?”
To address this issue, the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia released ‘Joint Practice Direction 2: JPD 2 of 2020 – Special Measures in response to COVID-19‘ which came into effect on 31 March 2020.
This practice direction states that the Courts will now accept for filing Affidavits and Financial Statements that have been signed without a qualified witness also signing the documents. However, if the Court requires it, the person who is swearing/affirming the document will need to make themselves available for a telephone or videoconference or in person, at a subsequent Court event, to swear or affirm that the contents of the documents are true and correct to the best of their knowledge, information and belief.
Many Australians are now working from home and therefore do not have the ability to print or scan documents. This issue was also addressed in Joint Practice Direction 2 of 2020 which states documents, including Affidavits, Financial Statements and Consent Orders that are required to be signed under the Family Law Rules 2004 or the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 may be signed electronically by the person swearing/affirming the document and/or the lawyer on the record for that party, including by having the person signing the document type their name in the relevant space in the signature block in lieu of physically signing the document.
It is important to note that none of the above changes have any effect on the requirements for signing an Affidavit that is part of an Application for Divorce. Therefore, all Applications for Divorce must still be signed by the Applicant/s in the presence of an Australian lawyer, a Justice of the Peace or ‘other authorised person’.
Establishing who qualifies as an ‘other authorised person’ to witness your signature on the Application for Divorce form is governed by the law of the state or territory in which you have your signature witnessed. If you require any further information about signing and witnessing documents please contact Watts McCray Lawyers.
Watts McCray Lawyers continue to be able to advise our existing clients and any new clients experiencing family law issues by telephone, and arrangements can also be put in place for video conferencing as appropriate. Please see our recent blog Watts McCray addresses the challenges of COVID-19 to see the changes we have implemented.