What is an affidavit?
If you’ve always been curious about this odd-looking, strange-sounding word, you’re probably in good company! After all, the word ‘affidavit’ would hardly be used outside of legal proceedings! To put it simply, an affidavit, or what is sometimes also called a witness statement, is a written statement of the facts in a case that you will affirm or swear to before a person who is authorized to confirm that you are the person executing or signing the affidavit.
This can be a Commissioner for Oaths, or a Notary Public or some other recognized authority sworn to and signed by you (the ‘deponent’ in a case) in front of a notary public, or another authority that has the power to witness an oath. In a way, your signature on an affidavit basically means that you are legally attesting that the statements written in the affidavit are true or true to the best of your knowledge or belief.
In what situations would I need to write an affidavit?
Examples of the situations where an affidavit is used or would be required would include the following:-
- In civil suits, for any interim applications that need to be dealt with before the matter goes to trial.
- Again for civil suits, at the trial of the case you will need to file affidavits of evidence-in-chief.
- For family law matters, e.g. divorce, applications for guardianship, interim maintenance applications and personal protection applications, affidavits are also required.
- For applications for probate or the grant of letters of administration, affidavits would also usually be required.
There may also be occasions where you may not be directly involved in legal proceedings but have been asked to furnish an affidavit. This could be because you were privy to some events or facts that need to be stated for the purpose of that particular case e.g. you were a witness to a traffic accident and there is a dispute about liability of what happened.
Generally speaking, it is important that your affidavit be as accurate and complete as possible – this is because at any hearing or trial at which they will be used, they will be the primary source of evidence that the Court will be using. If is also an offence under the Penal Code to knowingly make a false statement to Court.
I’ve been asked to write an affidavit. What do I need to do?
While the solicitor would generally help to guide you through the process of writing an affidavit, there are a few things under Order 41 of the Rules of Court that you need to take note of if you are writing one on your own:
- Always write in first person (for instance, “I took the dog, and then I went jogging”);
- You must state your residential address and occupation, and if you have neither an address or occupation, then you must describe yourself;
- If you are giving evidence in a professional, business, or occupational capacity, the affidavit may state your place of work, your current position, and the name of your firm or employer;
- Whether you are a party to the case, or employed by a party to the case;
- The affidavit must be divided into paragraphs that are numbered consecutively, and as far as possible, each paragraph should be limited to a distinct part of the subject; and
- Dates, sums and other numbers need to be expressed in figures, and not in words.
- If you are referring to documents or there are any documents that can support anything that you are stating in your affidavit, then these should be included as exhibits to the affidavit.
- As a general rule, unless you are an expert, you should not state opinions in an affidavit. Similarly, you should also not make legal arguments or submissions in an affidavit. You should generally only confine yourself to stating the facts.
- If an affidavit is being used for a trial, then it also generally cannot contain what is known as “hearsay evidence”. This is evidence which you have yourself not perceived, but where you are recounting what was told to you by someone else.
As such, as a general rule, your affidavit should only contain facts that are within your knowledge, and you should be wary about stating matters that you believe in, or that others have informed you of, and you should also be able to identify the source of your information.
There are also other specific things that should not normally be included in an affidavit. These include:-
- References to without prejudice communications that parties have engaged in. There are exceptions that allow for this, but you must be certain that you qualify for those exceptions first.
- References to information which may be deemed to be privileged e.g. confidential communications between a solicitor and their client that you may be privy to.
- Allegations which may be deemed to be scandalous or vexatious. These are allegations that may not necessarily be relevant for which the affidavit is being prepared but which are abusive or defamatory in their nature or intended to denigrate or deliberately cast the other party or persons in a negative light.
I’ve finished writing my affidavit. What do I do next?
After you’ve finished writing your affidavit, you will need to affirm and sign it in front of a commissioner for oaths, if you are located in the country where the affidavit is to be filed. If you are not in the country in which the affidavit is to be used, then you will usually need to attest the affidavit before a Notary Public or some other competent authority.
Have a question on affidavits?
If you have any questions on affidavits, you can get a Quick Consult with Kelvin Tan from Vicki Heng Law or with other lawyers. With Quick Consult, from a transparent, flat fee of $49, a lawyer will you call you on the phone to give you legal advice.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.