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Florida Man with Dementia Files for Divorce

An incredibly unique and complex divorce case is currently working its way through the courts in Florida. A husband suffering from dementia, with the support of his three adult children, is trying to file for divorce from his second wife. The case brings up many interesting issues in Florida divorce law, such as mental capacity and a waiting period that comes with certain divorce cases.

Facts at Issue

In the case of Zelman v. Zelman, Martin and Lois Zelman dated for seven years before marrying in 2000. Now 87 and 80 years old, respectively, Mr. Zelman is suffering from dementia. His three adult children from a prior marriage have encouraged him to file for divorce from Lois, his second wife. At stake is nearly $10 million that the children could inherit if the divorce is completed before their father dies.

Mrs. Zelman is fighting the divorce, some say for money and others say for love. She stands to inherit the $10 million and several pieces of property that she was promised as part of the prenuptial agreement if Mr. Zelman passes away before her. Both sides of the case claim that they are trying to protect Mr. Zelman and are demonizing each other in the media.

Winding the Case Through Court

This case began in probate court when Mr. Zelman’s eldest son filed paperwork last year claiming that his father was mentally incompetent and that Lois was ignoring his needs. He asked that a guardian be appointed by the court to oversee the financials of the couple. There was considerable conflicting testimony, but ultimately the judge found that Mrs. Zelman was a threat to her husband and ordered her to move out of the home.

Mr. Zelman was declared partially mentally incompetent and retained a few rights under the law. He was not allowed to marry, manage property, drive or work but could retain the ability to do other things including being able to sue and defend lawsuits. Mrs. Zelman claims that this was done on purpose to subvert the premarital agreement because it requires that Mr. Zelman file for divorce himself.

Florida Divorce Law

In Florida, a person cannot file for divorce because of mental incompetency until the spouse has been declared unfit for three years. The original purpose of the law was to protect incapacitated spouses from their healthy spouses leaving them with no recourse. However, this case differs from most because usually the competent spouse files to divorce the incompetent spouse. The next step in this case is to determine whether Mr. Zelman understands what he is doing and whether he truly wants a divorce.

Contact a Florida Divorce Attorney

Divorce can be extremely complex, and often requires the legal knowledge of a skilled attorney. If you or someone that you know has questions regarding divorce, let the experienced Orlando office of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. help. Reach out to us today for a consultation on your case.

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