Due to new laws and regulations announced by the government to assist in slowing the spread of the Corona Virus/COVID-19, it is making is increasingly difficult for parties’ in Family Law matters to execute their documents in the presence of a suitably qualified witness.
In your Family Law matter, there are various documents that you would generally need to sign your documents in the presence of an authorized witness such as your solicitor or a Justice of the Peace.
The Court is mindful that with the current restrictions on movement and many parties in self isolation, these legal requirements are not practical at this time.
On 31 March 2020, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia, released an updated Practice Direction that allows parties and/or solicitors in family law matters to sign their documents electronically and have temporarily lifted the requirement to sign in front of a witness, in circumstances where it is impractical to do so.
Joint Practice Direction 2 of 2020, allows the following to occur in lieu of client’s having their document’s physically witnessed by an authorized witness:
- Some Court documents including affidavits, financial statements and Consent Orders, are now able to be signed electronically by parties and/or their lawyers signed in the relevant space where they would ordinarily put their signature.
- These same documents may also be signed without a qualified witness;
- If the Judge or other judicial officer requires it, the party that has signed the document should be available by telephone, videoconference or in person, at the next Court event, to swear or affirm that the contents of the document are true and correct to the best of their knowledge, information and belief.
- This does not include affidavits for e-filing that relate to Divorce Matters.
The full practice direction can be viewed at:
This Joint Practice Direction applies to all family law applications, including appeals, filed in the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (“the Courts”), and all general federal law applications filed in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, where appropriate and necessary, the Courts are modifying practices in order to minimise the attendance by legal practitioners and parties at registries, with the Courts’ priority being the health and safety of the community, Judges and staff.
This information is correct as at 2 April 2020 and is subject to change. If you have any questions about the impact of this change on your Family Law Matter, please do not hesitate to contact one of our solicitors by email or on 02 6230 1300.
Our solicitors are currently available for telephone appointments or online appointments via Zoom or Microsoft teams. If you wish to use another application please call us to discuss your requirements.