There are many things that can delay a divorce proceeding, but it’s not often that you hear of it being due to dementia.
That is exactly what is happening in the case of Zelman vs. Zelman, however.
This unique case involves 87-year-old Palm Beach resident Martin Zelman who, due to his dementia, can’t answer a wide variety of basic questions such as when Valentine’s Day is, who the President is, or even what year it is. One thing he does know, though, is that he wants to divorce his wife.
It certainly looks that way, at least.
That’s the crux of the whole matter, really: Is he capable of making a decision that will impact so many other people, or is he being manipulated by others who would stand to benefit from him divorcing his wife.
On one side of the case is Lois Zelman, Martin’s wife, who has been married to him for 22 years. On the other side are Martin’s children, who claim that Lois is only after the $10 million promised to her in a prenuptial agreement. The problem is that the children stand to gain that money instead, if they are able to persuade their father to divorce.
Both sides are equally adamant about doing what is best for Martin, and both sides are adamant that the other is only after money.
There are so many mitigating circumstances that it would be near impossible to make sense of the case:
- One of Martin’s old caretakers accused Lois of abusing her husband, but it was later found out that the caretaker had been fired and might have sought revenge
- The children tried to have Martin declared incapacitated until they discovered that would mean he would no longer be allowed to file for divorce (a stipulation in the prenuptial agreement)
- Lois had been taking several trips all over the world
- The children had taken up to $3 million from a joint bank account between Lois and Martin, cancelled her health insurance, and cut off several of her memberships
The decision will be a tough one to make, and Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Charles Burton has his work cut out for him. The first thing he wants to do, he says, is get Martin up on the stand and ask him directly whether this is something he really wants to do. If he is unable to cohesively respond, then the question of who is really pulling the strings will take the stage.
The outcome should be interesting, and it may even set a precedent for cases involving mental incapacitation.