The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the judge should have conducted an inquiry into whether a guardian ad litem should be appointed for the husband in this divorce action. The husband did not appear at the inquest and both the wife and the judge were aware of the husband’s significant mental illness:
Judgment was entered in this divorce proceeding after the husband, pro se, failed to appear for an inquest. At the time of the inquest, both the wife and Supreme Court were aware that the husband had been diagnosed with a significant mental health condition, which resulted in episodes during which the husband was demonstrably unable to care for himself or otherwise protect his interests. Indeed, at the conclusion of the inquest, the court explicitly acknowledged that the husband’s absence was likely attributable to his mental health. Thus, before entering judgment upon the husband’s default, there should have been an inquiry into whether a guardian ad litem was necessary (see CPLR 1201, 1203 …). Because there was no inquiry, the judgment must be vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings, including, if necessary, an inquiry into the husband’s current capacity … . Richard v Buck, 2022 NY Slip Op 03335, First Dept 5-19-22
Practice Point: Here both the wife and the judge in this divorce action were aware of the husband’s mental illness. When the husband, who was representing himself, did not appear at the inquest, an inquiry into whether a guardian ad litem should be appointed should have been made.