Most people who want to get married are legally allowed to do so. Many states are even moving toward allowing same-sex couples to marry legally. And on the other end of the spectrum, the ability to end a marriage is a well-established. Everyone that is married has the right to get a divorce, if they so choose. However, this was not the case for the mentally disabled. Those who were considered mentally disabled and had a guardian appointed to speak on their behalf did not have the ability to divorce in most cases. The guardian did not have the power in the eyes of the court to promote divorce — until now.
A case in Cook County, Illinois, is opening up the possibility that the mentally disabled are now allowed to divorce via a guardian. The Illinois Supreme Court deemed it legal for a guardian of a mentally disabled person to speak on their behalf in divorce proceedings.
Before this ruling, a mentally disabled person was not permitted to get or apply for a divorce. They were effectively banned. The spouse without the mental disability was the only one allowed to initiate the divorce proceedings. Now, according to the Illinois Supreme Court, that is no longer the case. The court stated that this ban is no longer appropriate.
Under this ruling, the guardian is allowed to speak on behalf of the mentally disabled in a divorce. This means that divorce proceedings will be based on what the guardian asserts in situations where the mentally disabled person is unable to communicate their wishes verbally.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Cook County Case opens door to divorce for mentally disabled,” Oct. 4, 2012