Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Court says man can't seek divorce without wife's permission

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Supreme Court says the only way a mentally incompetent 88-year-old man can seek a divorce is if his guardian files for it on his behalf.

The trouble is, Elmer Riehle's legal guardian is his wife, and she does not want a divorce.

It's a "peculiar conundrum" that likely can only be settled by the state legislature, the court said, ruling that Kentucky law does not allow "persons of unsound mind" to file legal actions.

In 2008, Carolyn Riehle persuaded a jury to declare her husband mentally incompetent after he sent thousands of dollars to someone he believed to be "a Nigerian royal prince." Elmer Riehle has unsuccessfully fought that ruling, and in 2013 he filed for divorce.

But Kentucky is one of 10 states that prohibit mentally incompetent people from seeking a divorce. Twenty-six states allow for some exceptions, while 14 states have not addressed the issue.

"The disabled person is stuck until death do they part in the commonwealth," said Elmer Riehle's attorney, Steven Megerle. "It is important that a disabled person such as Elmer, if they are being abused or abandoned, should have the ability to be divorced and get a new guardian."

Lawyers for both sides said there was no evidence of abuse or exploitation in the Riehles' relationship, but other cases have been more troublesome.

In 2011, the state Court of Appeals denied the request of a woman with Alzheimer's to divorce her husband, who had been accused by state officials of using her illness to take advantage of her finances. The lower court urged the Supreme Court to overrule its 1943 Johnson vs. Johnson decision, which the law is based on.

Megerle also argued for overturning the precedent, and while the majority declined to review the case on Thursday, three of the seven justices said they would be willing to overturn the 1943 decision and allow mentally incompetent people to seek a divorce.

Justice Samuel T. Wright argued the courts should "in the least, appoint a limited guardian for the divorce action (as his current guardian's interests conflict with his own insofar as the divorce)."

Carolyn Riehle's attorney, Michael McKinney, disagreed: "There may be cases out there that need to have changes in the law, but this certainly wasn't that case."

Megerle said he has not spoken with Elmer Riehle about the ruling. He said his health has declined, making communication difficult.

Court says man can't seek divorce without wife's permission 12/16/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2016 12:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Cookbook review: ‘Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook' is like a friend who always has a good recipe up her sleeve

    Cooking

    Cherry Bombe is a biannual indie magazine, weekly radio show/podcast and annual conference that celebrates women and food. And this month's release is a cookbook, a compilation of tried-and-true recipes from women who are famous both in the food world and other industries. Think model and cookbook author …

    By Kerry Diamond 
and Claudia Wu Clarkson Potter, 256 pages, $35
  2. Beautiful Hong Kong is pulsating with life and culture

    Travel

    HONG KONG

    “Ah money, money, money!" the cabdriver exclaimed with no small sense of sarcasm in his Cantonese-accented English as he waved in the direction of the spectacular skyline of Hong Kong, a city that revels in its reputation as an international financial capital.

    The Hong Kong skyline, seen here from Victoria Peak, the highest point in the city at 1,800 feet, is a sight to behold.
  3. How to pick the perfect fall six-pack of beer

    Bars & Spirits

    With each fall comes another opportunity to assemble the perfect seasonal six-pack. Of course, this is often a six-pack in name only, as many of the latest seasonal brews come in large- format bottles (with a price tag to match). That just means that you'll need to assemble some friends and family to share with, and who …

     Abita Pecan Harvest Ale: As the name suggests, this toasty amber ale is brewed with roasted Louisiana pecans. The base beer is fairly neutral, allowing the sweet and nutty pecan character to stand front and center. It drinks not unlike a liquid pecan pie — though it’s a bit less sweet, thankfully.
  4. Florida education news: Start times, scholarships, school choice and more

    Blogs

    START TIMES: Hillsborough County schools get new bell schedules for 2018-19, with high schools starting an hour later than in the past. Officials said the move is …

  5. Pasco students get opportunity to tackle big-picture issues

    K12

    LAND O'LAKES — At first, Krysten Hart wasn't sure what she was getting herself into.

    Wesley Chapel High senior Emily Prengaman discusses ways to improve graduation rates with Sunlake High principal Michael Cloyd and other teens from around the school district during Pasco County's first student congress. [Photo by Jeffrey S. Solochek]