Mentally disabled persons who have guardians appointed to them now are free to seek divorces in the state of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a long-standing ban on guardians filing for divorce on behalf of their mentally disabled wards under Illinois law has been overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court in a groundbreaking Cook County court case.
In its decision, the Illinois Supreme Court reasoned that a comprehensive ban on all mentally disabled persons who are subject to guardianships from filing for divorce could leave vulnerable people trapped in marriages in which they are abused or exploited. Now, guardians are free to file for divorce on behalf of their wards if it would be in their best interest to do so. Courts will consider each case on an individual basis and decide whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the divorce would be in the disabled person’s best interests. Perhaps most importantly, this new standard will permit those mentally disabled persons who are able to do so to voice their own opinions on the issue, where they were unable to do so before.
The Cook County case that was the basis for this appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court involves a Cook County couple, the Karbins. The wife, Marcia Karbin, suffered brain damage in a 1997 car accident, which led to her daughter being appointed guardian for her. After financial disputes with her husband, Jan Karbin, Marcia’s daughter and guardian filed for divorce on behalf of her mother, but both the original divorce court and an appeals court ruled that she was unable to do so.
This recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling changes Illinois law substantially, in that many mentally disabled persons now may be able to initiate divorce proceedings through their guardians. This is particularly beneficial for those wards who are able to articulate their wishes at least part of the time, such as people with Alzheimer’s Disease or those with mental illnesses whose effects are not always present.
If you are a guardian contemplating filing for a divorce on behalf of your mentally disabled ward, or if you are in any situation where divorce may be a possibility, you should immediately contact an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney for assistance. The help of a skilled divorce lawyer can be invaluable in getting the relief that you deserve from your divorce proceedings, and ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the proceedings.
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