Swearing vs Affirming A Legal Document: What’s Different?

A legal document often entails a requirement for the contents of the document to be sworn or affirmed to be true. So what is the difference between the two? Both are equally valid. However, due to some people’s personal beliefs, they may prefer to swear or take an oath over a legal document. Read our guide to discover the difference between swearing and affirming a legal document.

Table of Contents

What is an Affidavit?

In this context, a legal document generally refers to an affidavit. An affidavit is a written statement of fact or evidence made by a person. The contents of an affidavit must be sworn or affirmed to be true. An ‘authorised person’ must witness the signing of the document. An authorised person generally means the Justice of Peace (JP) or a legal practitioner.

A deponent is a person who makes a deposition or affidavit under oath. They have the choice to take either an affirmation or oath. For more comprehensive information, you can read our guide ‘What Is An Affidavit?‘.

So what does swearing a legal document mean? Swearing refers to taking an oath. If a person believes in a god, they can swear by their god that they are telling the truth. You will hold a bible or other religious text in your hand when you are swearing the oath.

In New South Wales, the Oath Act 1900 (NSW) governs this. As a deponent, you will say words to the effect of ‘I swear that the affidavit is true, so help me God’.

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On the other hand, an affirmation does not refer to any god. Hence, if you do not have any religious beliefs you can choose to affirm your affidavit. It is important to note it has the same legal effect as swearing. In essence, an affirmation is a declaration that the contents of the legal document are true.

When conducting an affirmation, an authorised person will ask a question to the effect of: ‘Do you solemnly and sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the contents of this affidavit are true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?’. As the deponent, you will then respond by saying: ‘I do’.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the central difference between swearing and affirming is the religious component. If a person has religious beliefs, they will generally take an oath. Where a person does not believe in any god, they will take an affirmation. Either way, both swearing and affirmations carry the same weight and have the same legal implications. Ultimately, they are a declaration that the contents of the legal document are true. If you need to file an affidavit, read our guide ‘Your Questions About Affidavits Answered‘. If you aren’t sure what needs to be included in your affidavit, it is recommended you consult a lawyer.

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