Do incapacitated wards need prior court approval to marry? Subsequent ratification is enough
Already in 1888, the United States Supreme Court first recognized the right to marry as one of the fundamental rights of all individuals. Describing marriage as “the most important relationship in life,” the Court went on upholding that marriage is “the foundation of the family and society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.” Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888).
Regretfully, when it comes to marriage of incapacitated persons, they are sometimes the victims of emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. For this reason, a guardianship court may remove an incapacitated person’s right to marry if there is clear and convincing evidence that he or she is incapacitated with respect to that right. Fla. Stat. 744.3215(2)(a); 744.331(6). However, even when a guardianship court does not remove the right to marry, an incapacitated person’s right to marry becomes “subject to court approval” when his or her right to contract has been removed. Fla. Stat. 744.3215(2)(a). This legal framework aims at protecting the ward by allowing a court to assess the risks of abuse and exploitation, while upholding the ward’s fundamental right to marry, to the greatest extent possible.