With the release of the new fact sheet about marriage celebrant obligations in an online environment, we’re receiving a lot of questions about whether the rules about witnessing a NOIM over Skype, Facetime, Zoom, or any other videoconferencing platform have changed. Like this one:
With the new law, we are able to sight their identification online, so can we do the same if they sign the documents in front of us but online? So signing in America, we watch them do that over Skype, then they mail us the form, and we sign NOIM and date when we watched them sign over Skype.
The quick answer here is no.
We’ve never been able to witness the signatures on a NOIM via videoconferencing, and that hasn’t changed. This is because the Marriage Act specifically says the NOIM must be signed “in the presence of” an authorised witness, and “in the presence of” means in person, not electronically.
The Guidelines have this to say on the matter (on page 40):
An authorised celebrant or other person (see 4.9.1) is not able to ‘witness’ the signing of a NOIM over Skype or other electronic means as the NOIM is to be signed in the ‘presence’ of the authorised celebrant or other person.
Also just a semantics note; this is not a new law, it’s a new application of an old law to the Marriage Act. The Electronic Transactions Act was released in 1999, so it’s actually been possible to do all these weird and wonderful things for 20 years, it’s just that nobody insisted on applying it to the Marriage Act before this year.