A Kentucky court has been asked by an 88-year-old man to end his marriage, but there’s a real catch. It turns out that his wife is also his legal guardian, a role she assumed eight years ago when the man was declared mentally incompetent.
Elmer Riehle says that a few “bad financial decisions” were all the evidence used by the court to make the declaration of incompetence. His wife, Carolyn, insists that he can’t be trusted to manage his own affairs and is prone to investing in “internet overseas pyramid schemes.” Elmer, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2013, just before he filed for divorce, wants the court to end the marriage and the guardianship.
Under Kentucky law, Elmer must first show that he is mentally competent. The state has banned divorce proceedings involving mentally incompetent persons since 1943. In Pennsylvania, as in most other states, a mentally incompetent person can file for divorce, but only through a guardian.
Elmer’s attorney says that he has ample proof that Elmer was mentally competent when he filed the divorce complaint:
- Elmer found and retained the lawyer by himself
- He verified all the information in the divorce petition without any assistance
- He drove himself to all his meetings and court proceedings
- Elmer is left at home every day without supervision or care, as well as when his wife goes on vacation without him
Elmer’s attorney says the case is less about money and mostly about Elmer’s right to manage his own affairs. He says that Elmer gets Social Security and has a small annuity through the Knights of Columbus, but no other income. Carolyn, on the other hand, makes $50,000 a year as a nurse, and says that without her control of the finances, Elmer would spend the couple’s money on “get-rich-quick schemes, scammers and predators.” She says that Elmer’s attorney is just the latest in a long line of people trying to take advantage of Elmer.
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