A writ of mandamus is available to compel the performance of an act that the law requires as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station. But the appellate court will not issue a writ of mandamus to control a trial court's discretionary action unless the court has manifestly abused its discretion. Additionally, a writ of mandamus is not available if the petitioner has a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy, and it is within the discretion of the court to determine if a petition will be considered.
Nev. Rev. Stat. § 122.025 provides that a minor must obtain the consent of one parent or a guardian; then, in extraordinary circumstances, the district court may authorize the marriage if the court finds that it will serve the minor's best interests. The marriage consent statute, as applied to minors under sixteen, is not intended to infringe upon the non-consenting parent's liberty interest in his or her relationship with the minor.
SierraDawn Kirkpatrick Crow was the daughter of divorced couple Karen Karay and petitioner Bruce Kirkpatrick. After the divorce, Kirkpatrick maintained a relationship with his daughter through telephone conversations and visited her in New Mexico and California. In late December 2000, shortly after Sierra turned fifteen years old, she informed her mother that she desired to marry her guitar teacher, forty-eight-year-old Sauren Crow. A Nevada statute permitted a minor under the age of 16 to marry, with the consent of one parent, and the district court's authorization. Pursuant to the law, SierraDawn was able to get married with only the consent of her mother, Karen Karay, and without the knowledge of her father, Kirkpatrick. When Kirkpatrick first learned of Sierra's marriage, he sought an ex parte temporary restraining order in the New Mexico district court. That court granted the temporary restraining order, and awarded Kirkpatrick immediate legal and physical custody of Sierra. Four days later, however, the court rescinded its order because it found that Sierra's marriage was valid under Nevada law and that Sierra was emancipated as a result of the marriage. Kirkpatrick then moved the Clark County district court to vacate its earlier order authorizing Sierra's marriage. Kirkpatrick also sought to have the marriage annulled. Following a hearing, during which Kirkpatrick was present and Sierra and Crow were physically absent, but were represented by counsel, the district court entered an order denying Kirkpatrick's motion, concluding that the marriage complied with Nevada law and determining that Kirkpatrick lacked standing to challenge the marriage's validity. Thereafter, Kirkpatrick filed the current petition seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the district court to vacate its order authorizing Sierra's marriage, and to annul the marriage.
Should the writ of mandamus be granted?
The court held that Nev. Rev. Stat. § 122.025 violated Kirkpatrick's due process rights because his protected liberty interest in the parent-child relationship was infringed upon without notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Additionally, the court ruled that the district court manifestly abused its discretion when it authorized Sierra's marriage without expressly finding that extraordinary circumstances existed and that the marriage was in Sierra's best interests. Because the consent to marry was not properly obtained from the district court, the marriage of Sierra and Crow is void. Thus, the court granted the petition for the writ of mandamus compelling the district court to vacate its order authorizing a marriage license and to annul the marriage.