On behalf of The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A.
An unusual case has made headlines in Florida and across the nation, as a man has been prohibited from ending his marriage. The case has led to outrage among advocates for the disabled and the elderly, although others feel that the outcome was brought about to protect the man from harm. Viewed from either perspective, it is clear that the couple at the center of the thwarted divorce case has a tumultuous relationship.
The matter centers on an 88-year-old man who has been declared mentally incompetent. That action came about after the man fell victim to one of the most well-known online scams of recent years. He sent thousands of dollars to an individual claiming to be a Nigerian prince. Afterward, his wife turned to the courts, asking that he be deemed mentally incompetent. She was successful, and in 2008 the courts gave her the authority to act as her husband’s legal guardian.
The man filed for divorce in 2013. However, he lives in a state that does not allow individuals with mental disabilities to file legal actions. Therefore, the court ruled that he could not seek a divorce unless his legal guardian filed on his behalf. As his guardian is his wife, and she does not want a divorce, that outcome seems unlikely.
This case poses a difficult set of questions, both to the court involved and to the general public. Individuals with mental disabilities should certainly be cared for, and there need to be regulations regarding their ability to pursue legal action. At the same time, however, it is also important that people retain their individual rights, including the right to divorce if that is their chosen path. In this case, the court has determined that this man will be unable to end his marriage, no matter how much he may wish to do so. Readers in Florida and across the nation can only hope that his wife truly has his best interests at heart.
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tampabay.com, “Court says man can’t seek divorce without wife’s permission“, Adam Beam, Dec. 16, 2016