Can a power of attorney file a divorce on my behalf?

How much power does a power of attorney (POA) actually have? Can they file for divorce on behalf of the individual they represent? Or are they able to assist with the divorce process in other ways? Some attorneys and divorce experts weighed in below; keep reading to find out if your POA has the power to say, “I don’t” for you.
Meredith McBride

Meredith McBride

Partner at .

POAs Can Only be Used in Assisting Divorce Process

As with almost any legal inquiry, the answer is it depends as laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Generally, powers of attorney cannot file for divorce on one’s behalf. However, in the event that a person becomes incapacitated and a guardian or conservator has been appointed on their behalf, that person can file for a divorce on their ward’s behalf.

While a power of attorney cannot file for divorce on your behalf or execute divorce documents on your behalf, there are many tasks that a power of attorney can undertake to assist in the divorce process. You can authorize your power of attorney to communicate with your attorney and have discussions regarding settlement terms, legal strategy, and tasks that need to be completed. Be wary that these communications may not be subject to attorney-client privilege.

Examples of other types of duties a power of attorney can perform to assist you in the divorce process include: creating an inventory of marital and separate property; having your property appraised; safeguarding your property; helping you answer questions in discovery regarding your property, income, and financial interests; handling bank and financial accounts for you; contacting investment administrators on your behalf; maintaining insurance on your property; signing contracts; completing tax returns; requesting tax documents; collecting debts; and applying for public benefits.

No, Divorce Requires the Petitioner’s Signature and Presence in the Court

The general answer is no. A Power of Attorney gives another person the authority to handle certain tasks on someone’s behalf, which typically include dealing with property, finances, and other administrative matters. However, it typically cannot be used to file a divorce on behalf of someone.

Filing for a divorce is a personal matter and often requires the petitioning party’s personal signature and presence in court in most cases. Taking this important decision requires legal capacity and includes personal, emotional, and practical considerations that go beyond just a simple legal or financial transaction that a power of attorney might otherwise cover.

That said, a Power of Attorney could assist with certain aspects of the divorce process. For instance, a POA might handle financial matters, division of property, or even dealing with child custody issues.

Min Hwan Ahn

Min Hwan Ahn

Founder of .
Dan Xie

Dan Xie

Under Certain Circumstances

In general, POAs can only do things that you have specifically authorized them to do, so if your personal POA does not authorize them to file for divorce then they will not be able to do so.

In some cases even if the POA does authorize them there may still be certain restrictions regarding which countries allow this type of action and under what circumstances. For example, in China a POA cannot file for divorce unless the principal (the person who granted the power) is physically or mentally unable themselves due to their own personal situation at that time.

Therefore it’s important anyone considering using a POA should speak with an attorney familiar with both country’s laws before proceeding any further as this could help ensure everything goes smoothly and avoid any potential complications.

When dealing with international divorces, having knowledge about all relevant legal matters involved is very important to make sure everything runs according to plan from start to finish.

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