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Can a Family Member Witness a Statutory Declaration?

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In Australia, a statutory declaration is a legally recognised written statement that allows individuals to declare the truthfulness of certain facts under oath. Statutory declarations are commonly used in various official matters, such as immigration, finance, legal proceedings, and government applications.

 

One crucial aspect of completing a statutory declaration is the requirement for a witness. The witness must confirm that they have observed the declarant signing the document and that the declarant’s statements are true to the best of their knowledge. However, when it comes to witnessing statutory declarations, the issue of family members acting as witnesses may raise questions about potential biases and conflicts of interest. 

What is a Statutory Declaration?

A statutory declaration is a written statement made by an individual affirming the truth of the contents within the document. It is governed by the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 in Australia and is commonly used as evidence in various legal and administrative contexts.

 

Statutory declarations are notarised documents and carry the same weight as a sworn affidavit. However, unlike affidavits, statutory declarations are generally used for non-litigious matters. If you require help on how to write an affidavit, our lawyers in Sydney can assist you.

 

The contents of a statutory declaration can vary, depending on the purpose for which it is being used. Common uses include confirming one’s identity, stating the absence of criminal convictions, or declaring financial circumstances. It is essential to ensure that the information provided in a statutory declaration is accurate, as any false statements can lead to legal consequences and penalties.

In Australia, witnessing or certify copies of a statutory declaration is a critical component of its validity. The witness must be an authorised person, as stipulated in the Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018. Authorised witnesses include a range of professionals, such as:

 

  • Justice of the Peace (JP)
  • Notary public
  • Legal practitioner or solicitor
  • Police officer
  • Registered medical practitioner
  • Registered nurse
  • Pharmacist
  • Teacher or principal of a school
  • Australian consular or diplomatic officer
  • Commissioner for Declarations (QLD only)
  • Magistrate

Can a Relative Sign a Stat Dec?

While the list of authorised witnesses is extensive, it does not explicitly prohibit family members from acting as witnesses. However, the potential for bias and conflict of interest raises concerns about the appropriateness of having a relative serve as a witness on a statutory declaration.

 

The main concern is that a family member may be seen as having a vested interest in the outcome of the declaration, leading to doubts about the document’s impartiality. For example, if a statutory declaration involves a family dispute or financial matters, having a relative witness the declaration may compromise its integrity.

 

Due to these concerns, it is generally advisable to avoid having family members act as witnesses for statutory declarations. Instead, individuals should seek independent and impartial witnesses to ensure the document’s validity and credibility.

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Witnessing Guidelines for Statutory Declarations

To ensure the authenticity and legality of a statutory declaration, several key guidelines must be followed during the witnessing process:

 

  • Independence: The witness must be independent of the declarant and not have any vested interest in the contents of the declaration.
  • Physical presence: The witness must be physically present when the declarant signs the statutory declaration. Electronic signatures are not accepted for statutory declarations.
  • Identification: The declarant must provide appropriate identification to the witness, proving their identity and eligibility to make the declaration.
  • Understanding: The witness should satisfy themselves that the declarant understands the significance of the statutory declaration and the potential consequences of providing false information.
  • Completeness: The statutory declaration must be fully completed and signed in the presence of the witness.

 

Exceptions and Special Circumstances

 

In some exceptional cases, where there are limited options available for authorised witnesses in remote or rural areas, a family member may be the only practical option to witness a statutory declaration. However, it is essential to exercise caution and consider seeking legal advice in such situations to avoid any potential challenges to the validity of the document.

Statutory declarations play a crucial role in various legal and administrative matters in Australia. The witnessing process is a fundamental aspect of ensuring the document’s credibility and authenticity. While family members are not explicitly prohibited from acting as witnesses, it is generally advisable to avoid this practice due to potential biases and conflicts of interest.

 

Utilising independent and impartial witnesses from the list of authorised persons ensures that the statutory declaration meets all legal requirements and serves its intended purpose effectively. If you find yourself unsure about the witnessing process or the eligibility of a potential witness, seeking legal advice can provide you with the necessary clarity and confidence in completing your statutory declaration.

 

The legislation outlines the repercussions of making a false declaration or conducting declaration-taking without appropriate authorisation. As stated in Section 25 of the Act, any person who knowingly produces and signs such a declaration with false and significant information is committing a serious offence, classified as indictable, and may be subject to imprisonment for up to 5 years. In situations where the false declaration is intended to gain material advantages, the potential prison sentence can be extended to 7 years.

 

In addition to the above, if you require legal advice in relation any traffic matter. Contact our traffic lawyers in Sydney immediately.

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