Kate asks:

I was happy to see in the June 2019 A-G newsletter that it’s okay to receive documents electronically. Woohoo, so much easier! My question is about how this includes the Declaration of No Legal Impediment – see page 2 of the newsletter below, under the heading “Can documents be signed electronically?”, 3rd para, where it says:

“Marriage documents including the Notice, official certificates of marriage (civil and religious) and Declaration of No Legal Impediment (DNLI) may be signed electronically. Where parties to a marriage sign
these marriage documents with a hand-written or electronic signature, both parties are required to ‘sign’ in the presence of an authorised celebrant or authorised witness.”

I’m hoping to understand what kind of circumstance/scenario is acceptable for the couple’s signature to be witnessed, when the Declaration is signed electronically. Can you help clarity this? I’m not clear from the way it’s worded in the newsletter. A google search wasn’t much help either, as all I found was info about how it’s not possible to witness electronic signatures… but if the A-G have said it’s okay then surely they must have an acceptable scenario in mind?!

Some ideas of how it might work:
* over skype, I watch them sign the document with pen/electronically, then they scan/email the same document for me to sign as authorised witness
* sharing screens remotely while also talking on the phone, I watch them sign electronically then I do the same

Kate’s just got the wrong interpretation of “signed electronically” here. When they talk about electronic signing in this instance, they mean using electronic equipment such as a tablet and a stylus, e.g. an iPad and an Apple Pencil. They do not mean witnessing the signing electronically, e.g. over Skype or screen sharing software. The documents still must be signed in the presence of the witness, and that means the physical presence, not the electronic presence 🙂

There are excellent fact sheets about this available on the AGD website, or you can download them here: