In early December the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s department’s Marriage Law and Celebrants Section let us know that the remote witnessing of NOIMs has been extended to 31 December 2023.

Here’s the email sent to all celebrants:

Dear marriage celebrant

We are very pleased to advise that the temporary modification to the Marriage Act 1961 due to COVID-19, enabling an authorised witness to remotely witness the signing of the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM), has been extended for another year. This is a temporary response to assist parties to the marriage meet the notification requirements given the continuing impact of the COVID pandemic.

The Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Modifications—Statutory Declarations and Notices of Intention to Marry) Determination 2021 (the Determination) which commenced on 21 December 2021, modified the Marriage Act 1961 (the Marriage Act) and was the date from when authorised celebrants could begin witnessing signatures remotely.

The Determination is now in place until 31 December 2023, when the relevant legislative instrument will be repealed.

Under the Determination, an authorised witness may sign in the ‘Signature of witness box’ on page 4 of the NOIM, if they have observed the party signing the NOIM, whether or not by means of a facility that enables audio and visual communication between persons in different places. For example, this could include where the authorised witness has observed the signature of the party through videoconferencing facilities such as Skype or Zoom. Such NOIMs signed and witnessed remotely during the specified period should be accepted despite the note on page 2 of the NOIM stating that the ‘Notice must be signed in the physical presence of an authorised witness’. A NOIM must still be given to the authorised celebrant at least one month before the marriage is solemnised.

Please note that the locality requirements of witnesses have not been altered. As such authorised celebrants are only able to remotely witness the signature of parties signing the notice in Australia.

A party overseas is able to sign remotely under the observation of an overseas authorised witness – see paragraphs 42(2)(c) and (d) of the Marriage Act.

There are no changes to the requirement for the physical presence of all parties to the marriage, including the celebrant and two official witnesses, on the day of the marriage (see sections 41 and 44 of the Marriage Act):

Section 41 – A marriage shall be solemnised by or in the presence of an authorised celebrant who is authorised to solemnise marriages at the place where the marriage takes place.

Section 44 – A marriage shall not be solemnised unless at least 2 persons who are,or appear to the person solemnising the marriage to be, over the age of 18 years are present as witnesses.
There is also no change to the requirement that the declaration of no legal impediment be ‘made and subscribed’ before the authorised celebrant prior to the ceremony (see paragraph 42(1)(c) of the Marriage Act).

The department will provide further information regarding the ending of the temporary facility to witness NOIMs remotely closer to the date of repeal of the relevant legislation. Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions about the above.

Regards

Marriage Law and Celebrants Section