Can a de facto partner witness a legal document?

Question Details: My ex-husband has signed a legal document regarding our property settlement and has used his de facto partner as a witness. I know that a family member may not act as a witness, but I'm not sure if a de facto partner of 5 years qualifies as a family member. Was his partner legally allowed to witness the document?

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

Without knowing precisely what type of document it was that the partner witnessed, we cannot give you an exact answer about what witness requirements apply.

Generally, however, the purpose of a having somebody witness a document is so that they can be called to give evidence at a later date, if there became an issue about the document, for instance an allegation that your ex-husband was pressured or lacked mental capacity. So the partner may be an acceptable witness as long as they are not blind, and are of sufficient mental capacity to understand the nature of their act as a witness.

Without providing an exhaustive list, there do not appear to be many documents which actually require specified types of witnesses.

However, if the document was a settlement under the Property (Relationships) Act, your ex-husband's signature needs to be witnessed by a lawyer who signs a certificate saying that they have given advice about the agreement.

If you have further concerns regarding the validity of the document, we suggest you contact your lawyer.

Answered 30 Jul 2013. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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