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If you are in a legal dispute with another party, you may need to prepare an affidavit to present your facts and evidence in front of a court. It is crucial to understand what you can include in your document and how to affirm it. Otherwise, the court can strike out the whole document or parts of it, which can put you at a disadvantage compared to your opponent. This article explains how to draft an affidavit, what type of information you can include in it and who can affirm its contents before you can use it in a legal proceeding.   

What is an Affidavit?

An affidavit is a written and signed legal document that contains a statement of truth. You can use it as evidence in court. When you sign it, you must choose to either swear on oath or affirm its contents to be true before an authorised person. You must follow these requirements when preparing and signing your affidavit:

  • include your full name, occupation and address;
  • narrate all facts using the first person;
  • if using it in court, including all the evidence that you want to present in writing;
  • sign it (in front of the person who will take your oath or witness your affirmation); and 
  • initial all other pages, as well as any edits that you make.

What Type of Evidence Can You Include in Your Affidavit?

When you act as a witness in court, you can only give evidence for matters that are within your (first-hand) knowledge. This means that you must have seen, heard, smelled, felt or tasted them. You can also provide evidence on your own actions, thoughts or intentions at the time; or on what another person has told you about the incident (hearsay evidence). However, when providing hearsay evidence, you must follow different rules which will determine whether or not you can use it in legal proceedings. 

If you want to include additional evidence in your affidavit, you must attach the documents as exhibits. These must be relevant to the case, as a court will generally strike out any irrelevant evidence.

Who Can Affirm an Affidavit?

An essential part of your affidavit is the signing process. You can only sign your document in front of an authorised witness, who can affirm that its contents are ‘true and correct in every particular’. In New Zealand, authorised witnesses include:

  • court registrars;
  • lawyers;
  • justices of the peace; and
  • public notaries.

If you are planning to use your sworn statement overseas, you must affirm it before a notary public. You may need to make an appointment and pay a fee for their services. You can find a notary public on the New Zealand Society of Notaries website. 

What Happens If You Make a Mistake in Your Affidavit?

If you find a mistake in your affidavit after you have signed it, you must contact the court immediately and explain the error. Generally, you are required to provide a second or supplementary one, which includes the correction to your original statement.

What Happens If You Lie in Your Affidavit?

If you do not tell the truth in your affidavit, you commit a perjury offence. This means you are liable to a sentence of imprisonment for knowingly swearing or affirming a false testimony.

What is the Difference Between an Affidavit and a Statutory Declaration?

You can use a statutory declaration to prove your identity, nationality or marital status if you cannot show any supporting documents to validate them. Instead of swearing or affirming your statement, in a statutory declaration you “solemnly and sincerely declare” that it is true.

Key Takeaways 

When you draft an affidavit, you must always tell the truth about the events you are narrating; otherwise, you commit an offence under New Zealand law. You can use your document to present evidence in court, but you must sign first it, in front of an authorised witness, such as a notary public or justice of the peace. You can choose to either swear on oath or affirm its contents to be true through an oral statement. If you make a mistake in your affidavit, you must provide a second or supplementary one to correct the error.

If you need help to draft an affidavit, LegalVision’s dispute lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an affidavit?

An affidavit is a sworn or affirmed written statement of truth. You must sign it before an authorised person before you can use it as evidence in court proceedings.

Who can witness an affidavit?

You must sign your affidavit in front of an authorised witness, for example, a court registrar, lawyer, justice of the peace or notary public.

What can I use an affidavit for?

You can use an affidavit whenever you need to swear the truth of a statement, such as in a commercial or family dispute.

How do I write an affidavit?

Your affidavit must include your full name, occupation and address. It must be written using first-person and include all the evidence that you want to present in writing. You must initial all the pages that you are not explicitly signing, as well as any edits that you make to the document.

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