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Kentucky Supreme Court says mentally incompetent man cannot seek divorce

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Kentucky Supreme Court says a man who has been declared mentally incompetent by the courts cannot file for divorce.

Elmer Riehle has been diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia. The court appointed his wife, Carolyn, as his legal guardian in 2008. In 2013, Elmer Riehle filed for divorce. But two lower courts have ruled against him, citing a 1943 legal precedent. 

Elmer and Carolyn Riehle have been married for more than two decades.  

Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court said the law does not allow Riehle to file a lawsuit in his own name. The court said his guardian would have to file the divorce for him. But in this case, Riehle’s guardian is his wife, who does not want a divorce.

Justice Bill Cunningham called it a “peculiar conundrum” for Riehle, but indicated the state legislature could change the law.

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