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Court rules that one man is not allowed to divorce his wife

The majority of family law cases in Texas and elsewhere have a number of similarities: two parties are struggling to determine the details of the end of their marriage, including matters of child custody or the division of marital assets. In certain cases, however, the issues at hand are less common, and the court is tasked with making difficult decisions. An example is found in the case of a man who was recently told that he cannot file for divorce from his wife.

The case centers on a man who was declared mentally incompetent in 2008. That step was the result of a court case in which the man's wife convinced a jury that her husband was unable to handle his own affairs, after he sent thousands of dollars to a scammer. It appears that the man fell for the ubiquitous "Nigerian prince" email scam. The wife won that case, and was designated as her husband's legal guardian.

The man filed for divorce in 2013. However, the couple lives in a state that does not allow individuals who are mentally "unsound" to file legal actions. When the matter went before a judge, the man was told that he could not file for divorce, unless he convinced his legal guardian to file on his behalf. As his guardian is his wife, and she does not want to divorce, that outcome seems unlikely.

The case is complex, because it addresses the delicate balance between an individual's right to direct the course of his or her own life, and the need to provide protections for people who are mentally incapacitated. Many Texas readers have strong opinions on the matter, and courts across the nation are occasionally faced with similarly challenging divorce cases. One thing that does seem likely in this case is that the relationship between this man and his wife is strained by these proceedings.    

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

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