Edmunds v. Edwards
205 Neb. 255, 287 N.W.2d 420 (1980)

  • Harold was mentally handicapped, but not so much that the State had deemed him mentally incompetent.
  • He met Inez through his work. She was also mentally handicapped. The two began dating, received premarital counseling, and eventually married.
  • Two years later, Harold's guardian (Edmunds) filed to have the marriage annulled on the basis that Harold was not mentally competent to enter a marriage.
    • Lack of mental capacity is a voidable ground for annulment, not a void ground.
  • The Trial Court found that the marriage was valid. Edmunds appealed.
    • The Trial Court heard testimony from a number of people who knew the couple. For the most part they agreed that Harold was not very bright, but that he was intelligent enough to have the capacity to marry.
      • However, there was some disagreement.
    • The Court found that in order to establish capacity to marry, a person has to show evidence that they understand three factors:
      • That marriage is a commitment for life
      • That it involves sexual relations, and
      • That it carries financial obligations.
  • The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Nebraska Supreme Court noted that a marriage is presumed valid, and the burden of proof is upon the party seeking annulment.
    • The Court found that there was not enough evidence to overturn the decision of the Trial Court.
  • In general, there are four elements that must be established to show capacity:
    • Do I understand the objects of my bounty?
      • (do I know who my family members are?)
    • Do I understand the extent of my bounty?
      • (do I know how much money I have?)
    • Do I understand the uniqueness of this transaction?
      • (do I know that getting married is special?)
    • Can I interrelate these facts?