Can a Spouse Appear in Court on Her Spouse's Behalf?

By Maggie Lourdes

Marriage is a legal contract between spouses. Married couples can automatically do certain things for one another, such as making emergency medical decisions and overseeing burial arrangements. Special inheritance and property rights are also incidental to marriage. Married individuals do, however, maintain the vast majority of their individual legal rights. Therefore, spouses do not have inherent authority to appear in court proceedings on behalf of their husbands or wives.

Unauthorized Practice of Law

A person must have a law license and be a member of a state bar association in order to represent people in legal matters. Practicing law includes such activities as drafting legal documents and appearing for people in court. Representing a spouse in court is not an incidental right of marriage. Generally, it is illegal for a non-lawyer to represent her spouse in court because it is considered the unauthorized practice of law and may result in up to a year in jail and varying fines based on state laws.

Spouses as Attorneys

A person who is married to an attorney may have her spouse appear in court for her. There is no prohibition against an attorney representing his spouse in litigation. Therefore, a spouse may appear in court for his wife if he is licensed to practice law and is a member of the state's bar association.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Small Claims Court

Some states allow individuals to appear in small claims court cases for their spouses. Small claims courts do not allow parties to bring attorneys. They are designed to resolve small disputes between private parties. Generally, such appearances are limited to cases where spouses share a joint interest in the dispute. A husband or wife must also consent to their spouse appearing for them. A small claims judge or magistrate always has power to require both spouses to appear if she believes it is in the best interests of justice.

Conflicts of Interest

In cases where spouses may appear for their husbands or wives, consideration should be given to any potential conflicts of interest. For example, a husband and wife sign a contract to paint their home. The painter and the husband later change the paint color to something the wife does not like. After completion, if the spouses are sued jointly for non-payment, the husband may be held liable since he consented to the change. However, the wife may not be liable if her basis for non-payment is that she did not agree to the change.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
The Binding Effect of a Divorce Decree on Third Parties
 

References

Related articles

Is Divorce Court Open to the Public?

Divorce proceedings necessarily involve the disclosure of highly personal and often intimate details. For that reason, a couple may desire that their divorce be held in private. However, in most states, unless there are specific circumstances requiring confidentiality, members of the public are allowed to be present during your divorce trial.

The Responsibility for Medical Debt in a Divorce

With the high cost of medical treatment in this country, unexpected medical bills can ruin a family budget and diminish a savings account. Couples who divorce with outstanding medical bills must face the issue of who pays the debt when the marriage is over. The answer depends on the circumstances of the couple and the laws of the state in which they live.

How to Seal a Divorce Record

Most court records, including divorce records and other lawsuits, are public. As public records, anyone can access them for any reason, even if they’re just being nosy. While states generally want their judicial system open so that the citizens of a community can hold their courts and neighbors accountable, states also recognize there are certain times when a person’s involvement in a case is of such a nature that it is appropriate to seal that case’s record.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can a Husband File Criminal Charges Against His Wife in Divorce Proceedings?

In some divorce cases, insults and allegations fly like autumn leaves. Even when spouses file for no-fault divorce in ...

Sharia Law on Divorce

When immigrants arrive in the United States, they bring the traditions of their faith with them. Sharia and its laws ...

Husband's Contract to Waive Rights to an Elective Share of a Spouse's Property

Unless other arrangements are made, if a husband is not mentioned in his wife’s will or is bequeathed only a nominal ...

Can a Division at Divorce Be a Fraudulent Conveyance?

Property division is a fundamental part of a divorce proceeding. Couples are generally free to agree on a property ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED