Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

Guardianship Overturned: Hungarian Court Recognises Young Man’s Autonomy

By Zsófia Bajnay 7th June 2024


In March, Validity achieved a victory for a young man with disabilities when a Hungarian appeals court replaced his guardianship by supports in decision-making.  

Bence, a 31-year-old Hungarian man, experienced a profound shift in his life following the death of his grandmother, his primary support person, in 2018. Before her passing, Bence enjoyed a life of independence. After her death, however, his court-appointed guardian assumed wide control over various aspects of his life, including his income, place of residence, daily tasks, and property management. 

Bence, who disagreed with the guardian’s actions, sought legal assistance from Validity to regain control over his life. In 2023, he challenged his guardianship order before the Balassagyarmat General Court during a mandatory review. In February 2024, the court heard Bence’s case and found that Bence needed the right kind of support instead of a guardian.    

Having heard Bence´s statement before the judge, the court emphasised in the judgement that the existence of an actual or perceived impairment was not sufficient to justify restriction of legal capacity. Consequently, on 21 March 2024, the court dismissed the guardian and appointed a supporter in decision-making. As opposed to a guardian, the supporter helps Bence make decisions independently, cannot act on his behalf or against his wishes. 

After the trial, Bence shared his emotions: “I was very pleased when, after seven years, I was able to win the case against the guardian. Thank you very much to Validity Foundation for their help, because it was very difficult to fight the guardianship alone.” 

Bence’s lawyer, Erika Muhi, also evaluated the decision: “I hope that this judgment will now mean that domestic courts will move towards international standards, and that this will be an example for other courts to follow. Having said that, I don’t know whether the case would have succeeded without the extensive legal support behind Bence, both from Validity and the lawyers who acted for it.” 

From the perspective of Validity, the decision shows greater alignment with the fundamental principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), emphasising the primacy of individualised support in decision-making, as opposed to restrictions of legal capacity. In 2022, the UN CRPD Committee still expressed concern in relation to Hungary  about “the discriminatory nature of restriction on the legal capacity of persons with disabilities on the basis of impairment, the absence of measures to abolish the discriminatory provisions of the Civil Code and the persistence of the substitute decision-making regime, depriving persons with disabilities of their rights”. In order to change this practice, it is essential to enact systematic measures in the legislative, executive, and awareness-raising domains, in addition to court decisions regarding the restoration of legal capacity. 

Validity remains committed to advocating for the legal capacity and human rights of persons with disabilities, reinforcing the need for ongoing judicial and societal efforts to align with the UN CRPD’s mandates.