Notary Public vs Justice of the Peace

A Notary Public and a Justice of the Peace are public officials who deal with documents, but their functions and authority differ.

What is a Notary Public?

A Notary Public is a legal practitioner admitted and enrolled in a State or Territory Supreme Court to the legal office of notary public who acts as a witness to the signing of legal documents. Their primary function is to authenticate a wide range of documents so as to enable their use internationally. They authenticate documents through notarisation, which involves preparing notarial certificates certifying information and/or procedures for a wide variety of matters required by international third parties, certifying copies of documents and attesting signatures after confirming the signer’s identity, capacity and knowledge of the contents of the document to prevent cross-border fraud.

Notaries Public usually operate in law firms and play a crucial role in legal processes, because their signature and seal of notarial office serve as a mark of authenticity, crucial for the integrity of important documents and facilitation transactions by persons in Australia around the world.

What is a Justice of the Peace?

In Australia, a Justice of the Peace (JP) is a volunteer appointed by a state or territory government to witness official documents, certify copies, administer oaths, verify identity, and provide witness services. JPs vary in powers and responsibilities between states and territories, and individuals should consult the relevant State or Territory Government Department for specific information. JP’s volunteer their services to the community without charge and can be found at community centres, courts, councils, libraries, and by individual appointment.

Notary Public vs Justice of the Peace

In comparing a Notary Public and a Justice of the Peace (JP), the defining aspects lie in their authority, limitations, the legal documents they handle, and the qualifications required for each role. These distinctions are particularly important to understand within the context of Australian law.

notary public vs justice of the peace

Authority and Limitations

Notary Public: A Notary Public in Australia is a senior lawyer who has been enrolled and admitted by a state or territory Supreme Court. Their authority extends to the international authentication and certification of documents, which is a requirement for documents that will be used overseas. Notaries public in Australia are generally not involved in domestic matters within Australia.

Justice of the Peace: JPs in Australia are not typically legal professionals but are appointed volunteers from the community who provide their services for free. They have the authority to certify copies of original documents and witness signatures on documents, such as statutory declarations and affidavits, for use within the country.However, JPs do not have the authority to provide legal advice, prepare legal documents, or authenticate documents for international use. Their role is primarily to witness and certify within the parameters set by their state or territory.

Legal Documents and Proceedings They Are Involved In

Notary Public: Notary Publics mainly deal with international matters, such as witnessing documents that will be sent overseas, certifying the authenticity of documents for use abroad, and providing notarial acts like noting and protesting bills of exchange.

Justice of the Peace: JPs are more involved in domestic legal processes. They witness documents such as affidavits for use in court, statutory declarations, divorce documents, and documents related to property transfers within Australia. Some JPs may also witness the execution of advance health directives and enduring powers of attorney.

Required Qualifications for Each Role

Notary Public: To become a Notary Public in Australia, one must be a qualified and experienced lawyer, usually with at least five years of practice and typically complete a course specific to notarial practice. A Supreme Court must then approve applicants in the relevant state or territory.

Justice of the Peace: The qualifications to become a JP vary by state and territory, but generally, individuals must be Australian citizens, over 18 years of age,, be proficient in English and be of good character. Some states require applicants to complete training or pass an exam, while others require applicants to provide references as to their good character, reputation and standing in the community.

The comparison shows that Notaries and JPs cater to different needs within the legal spectrum. Notary Publics offer specialised services that usually extend beyond national boundaries and require legal expertise, while Justices of the Peace provide more general but equally essential services on a domestic level.

Fees and Compensation

How Notary Publics Are Compensated

In Australia, Notary Publics typically charge a fee for their services. These fees are not standardised nationally and can vary depending on the complexity of the document, the number of signatures required, and the time spent on the notarial act. Notary Publics may provide a fee schedule or quote upon request, which can help individuals and businesses anticipate the costs associated with notarisation services. Given that Notary Publics are often experienced lawyers, their fees might also reflect their legal expertise and the additional responsibilities they hold, especially concerning international documents.

How Justices of the Peace Are Compensated

Justices of the Peace (JPs) in Australia offer their services on a voluntary basis. They do not charge for their services, which reflects their role as community volunteers appointed to assist individuals at no cost.

The voluntary, free services offered by JPs and their presence in various locations, such as councils, libraries, courts, greatly increase the accessibility and availability of legal witnessing and document certification services to the community. This can be particularly important for individuals with limited financial resources, as it ensures that they have access to essential legal services. However, the legal training and experience of Notaries Public and the nature of the more specialised nature of services they provide, particularly concerning international legal matters and the international acceptance of documents they authenticate (including by foreign Government and legal authorities), which may also require the preparation of an accompanying Notarial certificate certifying information and/or procedures undertaken, necessitate such costs.

Choosing Between Notary Public and Justice of the Peace

When you need a document certified as a true copy of the original or your signature witnessed on a document, you might wonder whether you need a Notary Public or a Justice of the Peace (JP) for your documents. The decision depends on the nature of the document, its intended use, and jurisdictional requirements.

Situations Requiring a Notary Public

  • JInternational Documents: If your document is to be used outside of Australia, a Notary Public is often required. Notaries can authenticate documents, certify their legal status, and ensure they meet the criteria of foreign jurisdictions.
  • JComplex Legal Documents: For legal documents that may require a higher level of authentication, such as Australian university qualifications, powers of attorney to be used abroad, property transactions involving overseas assets, or documents related to immigration.
  • JCorporate Documents: If you're conducting business internationally or need documents authenticated for foreign entities, a Notary Public can certify company documents , witness signatures on documents such as contracts or prepare Notarial certificates of good standing of a company for international use.
  • JApostille or Authentication Certificate: Where you have been requested by a foreign entity to have an Apostille or Authentication certificate issued by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of your document, this requires the document to be notarised first in most cases.

Situations Requiring a Justice of the Peace

  • Domestic Documents: For documents that will be used within Australia, such as statutory declarations, affidavits for court cases within Australia y, or personal documents like copies of a driver's license for use within Australia.
  • Witnessing Signatures: JPs are accessible for witnessing signatures on documents like consent forms, government applications, and minor legal documents for use within Australia and where international authentication is not necessary.
  • Certifying Copies: When you need to certify copies of original documents for use in Australia, such as academic records, utility bills, or identification documents for job applications or government services.

Need help with your documents?

If you are unsure about which professional to approach for document authorisation - a JP, lawyer or Notary Public in Adelaide we can assist you. Please don't hesitate to contact us at (08) 8342 1388 if you have any questions or require further assistance with this or any other matter.

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