Can Someone Still Get Married If They Are Under A Court-Ordered Guardianship?
Under Florida law, when an adult is declared incapacitated and subject to a guardianship, that adult–known as a ward–may be deprived of certain legal rights. Some of these rights may be delegated to the guardian, such as the ability to enter into contracts or apply for government benefits on the ward’s behalf. Other rights can be removed but are not subject to delegation, including the right to marry.
In fact, the subject of marriage often comes up in guardianship litigation. Take this recent story from the Providence Journal in Rhode Island. The Journal reported on the story of a man in his 80s who suffers from dementia. A Rhode Island court appointed a guardian to oversee the man’s affairs in 2016. But in 2018, the ward apparently married a “longtime friend” in Florida.
A Rhode Island probate judge declared the marriage invalid due to the ward’s mental incapacity. The jilted spouse argued that Rhode Island courts lacked jurisdiction to nullify a Florida marriage. The Journal reported the spouse is now involved in a Broward County, Florida, probate regarding the marriage’s legality.
Florida Law May Require Judicial “Approval” of a Ward’s Marriage
The Journal noted that state courts around the country are “all over the place” when it comes to the legality of a person marrying while subject to a guardianship. As far as Florida law is concerned, however, the state Supreme Court has weighed in on the subject. And its findings may be somewhat confusing.
In 2017, the Court issued its decision in Smith v. Smith. This case involved an adult male ward who suffered head trauma in a car accident. A Florida judge appointed a guardian and delegated to him the ward’s “right to contract and his right to manage property.” Sometime later, the ward married his fiancee, whom he’d been engaged to prior to the auto accident.
The guardian refused the spouse’s request to obtain court approval for the marriage. Instead, a lawyer appointed to represent the ward moved to annul the marriage. The Florida Supreme Court reviewed the case held that when a guardianship order does not remove a ward’s right to marry–as was the case here–then the ward is not required to seek approval prior to getting married. That said, the court must still approve or ratify the marriage before it “can be given legal effect.” The Court reasoned that since the guardianship court had removed the ward’s right to enter into a contract, this made judicial ratification of the marriage necessary.
Contact Florida Guardianship Litigation Attorney Mark R. Manceri Today
As you can see, a guardianship can impose severe restrictions on a person’s most basic liberties. So when a dispute arises over the scope of a guardianship, it is important to work with an experienced Pompano Beach estate & trust litigation attorney who can provide you with skilled representation in dealing with this often complex field of law. Contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation with a member of our guardianship litigation team.