Discretionary appointment of counsel - divorce

Key_development Question_mark

Litigation, Divorce

In Genninger v. Genninger, 418 Mass. 732, 735 (1994), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court applied a case-by-case approach to appointing counsel in a divorce case and held that there was no right to counsel in the divorce case at issue because (a) only property interests were at stake; (b) there were no exceptional circumstances, such as complex legal issues or a litigant's inability to present the case. While it is not completely clear whether the court was analyzing the U.S. Constitution or the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights in reaching this conclusion, it did say that the litigant had raised both and seemed to suggest that it would not extend the ruling from Dept. of Public Welfare v. J.K.B., 379 Mass. 1 (1979) (finding right to counsel for adoption cases) so far.


In Peace v. Peace, 288 N.E.2d 602 (Mass. 1972), the court held that in a divorce case, "the Probate Court shall consider the appointment of counsel for the [defendant in a divorce] if the latter so desires and is indigent."

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no