In July 2013, the Herald-Tribune told the story of former Manatee County judge Claflin Garst Jr. and his wife of more than 30 years, Bunny.
When her husband’s judgment in money matters appeared to her to be eroding dangerously in 2010, Bunny Garst asked the court system to make him a ward of the state and name her as his guardian. But her ex-son-in-law also sought guardianship, and the bitter court battle ended with a paid professional guardian in charge of her husband’s finances and his private life.
Bunny Garst says now she has stopped attempting to see her husband, and his guardian recently allowed him to leave his ranch to visit relatives in Palmetto, on the condition that his hired housekeeper accompanied him.
Since losing the legal fight to care for her husband, Garst has tried, with limited success, to stop his guardian from liquidating real estate owned by the former judge, at what she believes to be “ridiculously low” prices. She worries about the ranch where her husband lives, appraised by the guardian at $590,000, which she believes is worth 10 times that. The guardian, Robert Elliott, has declined to comment.
In February, on the eve of her 81st birthday, Garst filed for divorce. There is a mandatory waiting period of three years after a spouse is declared incapacitated, so the case is pending until late January.
“I really, really hate this; I feel like I’m abandoning him in his hour of need,” she says. “I don’t want a divorce because the only way I can be of any help to him — which, granted, isn’t much — is if I am his wife.”
But, she adds, “I have no choice but to go ahead with the divorce before all of Claflin’s assets are gone and I have to support him.”
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