Centuori & Alcoverde, P.C.

In the vast majority of cases, Arizona couples who wish to end their marriage go through a fairly predictable series of steps to reach that goal. In some cases, however, there are unusual factors that make obtaining a divorce a more difficult hurdle to clear. An example is found in the case of a man is unable to obtain a divorce from his wife, due to the fact that he has been deemed mentally incompetent. The issue is complex, because it balances an individual's right to direct the course of his or her own life against the need to have a legal guardian look after one's rights.

The man is 88 years old, and was declared mentally incompetent in 2008 at the behest of his wife. She asked a jury to make that determination after her husband gave thousands of dollars to an individual who had sent him an email claiming to be a Nigerian prince. The man has fought that determination in the years since but has not been successful. His wife was named his legal guardian.

In 2013, the man filed for divorce. However, he has encountered a roadblock due to the fact that his state of residence does not allow mentally incompetent individuals to file legal actions. If he wants to file for divorce, he would have to convince his legal guardian to do so on his behalf. As his legal guardian is his wife and does not want a divorce, he is left with no recourse in the matter and must remain married.

This case has led to a great deal of debate, in Arizona and elsewhere. Personal freedoms are among the most cherished rights held by American citizens. The idea of being forced to remain married to someone against one's wishes is distressing to most people. However, if this man is truly incapacitated, then allowing him to make life-altering decisions, including divorce, could place him in harm's way. What is clear is that the dynamic between this man and his wife/guardian is likely complex and challenging, for both sides.   

Source: tampabay.com, "Court says man can't seek divorce without wife's permission", Adam Beam, Dec. 16, 2016

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