The Limited Role of a Pro Se Litigant or Power-of-Attorney in Divorce Law

This might surprise you: several niches in the legal industry do hold some authority when discussing the valid necessity of having a pro se litigant or power of attorney in place to represent you. This could often be the case for, say, a divorce proceeding, of which one participant can’t mentally or even physically attend, hence that one participant would be left without a representative to stand in.

Power-of-attorneys are common in a courtroom. However, they’re not always necessary as we recently see in an Ocean County Superior Court where a divorce action now mandates that if any spouse is “mentally competent,” that spouse must personally participate with such a divorce proceeding. Judge Lawrence Jones himself declared that. No one can simply assign “power of attorney” or a pro se litigant to handle matters. When it comes to divorce, only two parties must participate: both spouses.

The reasoning behind that is simple – no one can know the particular details of a divorce proceeding, not even a relative. Deputizing a POA wouldn’t be suitable in this case, even if the spouse in question were an 80-year-old. The only way, of course, to ensure that a power-of-attorney or pro se litigant can ever be substituted is if there can be medical documentation and proof that the spouse is completely mentally incapable of understanding the divorce situation.

This essential decision is crucial with respect to divorce law, especially in New Jersey. There has been, in fact, a considerable increase in divorce proceedings between couples of ages 60 and over nationwide. I would then consider this decision to be extremely relevant.

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