State officials are claiming that the case of a woman who violated a probate court order by taking her elderly mother to Florida clearly shows the limits of such courts. A probate judge in the woman's home state ordered her not to take her mother out of state, but a spokesman for the court system explained that there is no obvious way for the order to be enforced in Florida.

The mother, who suffers from dementia, told the court that she was tired of "family stuff" and wanted to be able to visit her family while still enjoying retirement in Florida. Although she did not appear for a hearing regarding her $1 million estate, a probate judge appointed a guardian for the mother in her absence and also named an executor of the estate.

Officials say that they have tried to pass laws that would allow them to enforce the probate court's order in Florida, but such attempts have yet to prove successful. If passed, such a law would allow adult conservatorships to function similarly to those related to child custody. This would allow an order issued in one jurisdiction to be enforced in another, as long as both states have passed the requisite law.

Even if the law was passed in the woman's home state, Florida would need to enact a similar measure for the order to be enforced. While officials do say they could enforce the order with a contempt of court finding, such a method is limited in its efficacy.

Source: CTPost, "Case of elderly woman taken by daughter shows limits of probate orders," Frank Juliano, 14 July 2011