Does a Ward in Florida have the Right to Marry?
Do you have a family member who is a “ward” under a guardianship and wants to get married? It’s understandable that you want to protect your loved ones from exploitation and abuse, especially if the Ward is elderly, but it’s also important to understand that the ward doesn’t want to sacrifice their fundamental rights either. So, where does Florida law stand in regard to a Ward having the right to marry.
Guardianship matters are taken extremely seriously by the Florida courts, especially because they involve taking away someone’s rights. At Mark R. Manceri, P.A., guardianship litigation is a large part of our litigation practice. We have years of experience handling disputes involving a Ward’s rights.
Smith v. Smith Case
The Fourth District Court of Appeals in Florida handed down an appellate decision in 2016 in the matter of Smith v. Smith. This Case involved the marriage of a Ward and another person. The Ward was declared incapacitated or incompetent. His rights were taken away and any right to enter into a contract was subject to court approval. Since marriage is a legal contract, this means his right to marry was removed.
However, in this case, the Ward went ahead and got married without the Court’s consent. Later on, the guardian filed a petition to have the marriage annulled. The guardian was successful and had the marriage annulled. The Case ended up in the Florida Supreme Court to clarify whether or not the Court needs to approve a marriage if the fundamental right to marry wasn’t removed. And, is a marriage that is unapproved absolutely void, or can the court approve it retroactively?
This case had some unique circumstances as well. The Ward had gotten engaged and signed estate planning documents naming his fiancée as the pre-need guardian and surrogate all prior to the accident that left him with brain damage. When they were first dating, he was still married to his first wife. He initiated divorce proceedings prior to the accident.
The Florida Supreme Court looked at the facts in question and concluded that nothing prevented a ward or their spouse from seeking a Court’s approval after the marriage in order to ratify it. What this means is that the Ward in this situation can look to have the marriage approved after the fact. The marriage is not void. The Court is tasked with verifying that the ward understands the contract involved in marriage, wants to get married, and the relationship is not exploitative.
Contact a Pompano Beach Guardianship Litigation Attorney Today
In the Smith v. Smith Case, the Ward had two very important documents that named his now spouse as the one person he wanted in charge of his healthcare decisions and finances in the event he became disabled. That should’ve been enough to keep him from having to go through guardianship court, or having his marriage become a landmark legal decision. However, it did, and there are plenty of other situations where court involvement is necessary. This is why it’s important to contact a guardianship litigation attorney right away if you have a loved one who needs protecting. Contact Mark R. Manceri, P.A. today to schedule an initial consultation.