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Porter v. Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services

Supreme Court of Arkansas
286 S.W.3d 686 (Ark. 2008)


The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) (plaintiff) filed a petition in juvenile court, alleging that Mark Porter and his ex-wife, Diana Rolen (defendants), had neglected their two minor daughters, including 16-year-old D.P. At trial, DHHS presented evidence that the defendants had allowed D.P. to marry 34-year-old Ralph Rodriguez in Mississippi. Rolen testified that she believed Rodriguez was 25 years old and that she had given her consent to the marriage, because she feared D.P. would run away otherwise. Porter testified that he had consented to the marriage without really knowing Rodriguez or inquiring into Rodriguez’s past. Based on the evidence, the juvenile court ordered the children to be removed from the custody of the defendants pending further investigation. Subsequently, a guardian ad litem representing D.P.’s interests filed a motion requesting the court to invalidate the marriage between D.P. and Rodriguez on the basis that the defendants’ consent was given in disregard for D.P.’s health and safety and without knowledge of Rodriguez’s true age. At a hearing, the court denied Porter’s motion to dismiss the proceedings on the ground that Porter’s lawful consent to D.P.’s marriage could not be a factor in determining whether the defendants had neglected their children. The trial court found that D.P. was a dependent-neglected child and ordered D.P. to remain in DHHS custody. Additionally, the trial court voided the marriage on the basis that parental consent had been obtained through coercion and misrepresentation of Rodriguez’s age and that D.P. lacked the mental capacity to enter into marriage. Porter appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Brown, J.)

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