A few weeks ago, we published an article about the Family Courts remaining open but implementing social distancing procedures, including the electronic filing of documents and appearances by telephone or video link. However, the requirement for social distancing has created issues for signing and witnessing Court documents.

The Family Court has released a new practice direction that allows for documents to be signed “electronically”. This includes documents for Court proceedings, such as Affidavits and Financial Statements, as well as the documents required for Consent Orders. These documents can be signed electronically either by the person using an electronic signature or by the person typing their name in the space where the signature would normally be.

However, there is an additional hurdle for Affidavits and Financial Statements as these documents are usually required to be sworn or affirmed and witnessed by a Justice of the Peace or a legal practitioner. Clearly this is difficult in the current circumstances, so the Court has temporarily waived this requirement. Affidavits and Financial Statements can be signed electronically and filed without being witnessed however, the Court may require the person who made the Affidavit or Financial Statement to swear or affirm the documents to the Court via telephone, videoconference or in person at the next Court event.

We will have to wait and see how long these arrangements remain in place and whether the Family Courts permanently adopt any of these measures in the technological age we live in.

If you require assistance with signing documents or have any questions about your family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact us on 02 4322 0251 or by email at [email protected] to speak with one of our solicitors.