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January 03, 2005

Fathers' Rights Thinking Results In Boneheaded Judge's Decision

Update: One of my commenters, Ab_Normal, noted that the judge who made this boneheaded decision is retiring on January 7, 2005. Thank God for small favors.

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Friday, December 31, 2004 · Last updated 3:03 p.m. PT

Judge won't let woman divorce while she's pregnant
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SPOKANE, Wash. -- A Spokane woman trying to divorce her estranged husband two years after he was jailed for beating her has been told by a judge she can't get out of the marriage while she's pregnant.

The case pits a first-year attorney who argues that state law allows any couple to divorce if neither spouse challenges it against a longtime family law judge who asserts that the rights of the unborn child in this type of case trump a woman's right to divorce.

"There's a lot of case law that says it is important in this state that children not be illegitamized," Spokane County Superior Court Judge Paul Bastine told The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Further complicating things, Shawnna Hughes claims her husband is not the child's father.

The bottom line, says Hughes' attorney, Terri Sloyer, is that there's nothing in state law that says a mother can't get a divorce if she's pregnant.

"We don't live in 15th-century England," Sloyer said. "I am absolutely dumbfounded by it."

Hughes' husband, Carlos, was convicted in 2002 of beating her. She separated from him after the attack and filed for divorce last April. She later became pregnant by another man and is due in March.

Her husband never contested the divorce, and Court Commissioner Pro Tem Julia Pelc approved it in late October.

However, the approved divorce papers didn't note that Hughes was pregnant. Sloyer filed amended papers to correct the omission, and the next day, she spoke with Bastine by phone. Bastine said he planned to rescind the divorce and then did so following a Nov. 4 hearing.

"It's not the child's fault that mom got pregnant," Bastine said. "The answer is, you don't go around doing that when you're not divorced."

Sloyer has appealed.

"This is a very dangerous precedent to set - particularly in this case, with a woman who is a victim of domestic violence," Sloyer said.

In comments submitted to Bastine, Hughes said: "If this court vacates my divorce and requires me to stay married to a man I have no desire ever to have a relationship with and who has brought significant physical harm to me over the years, I would be emotionally devastated. If the court vacates my divorce and stays it until the birth of my child, it will prevent me from marrying the father of my child prior to her birth."

The state's Uniform Parentage Act sets the rules for who cares for children, including those not yet born in cases of divorce. A husband is presumed to be the father of any child born up to 300 days after a divorce.

The judge argued that the paternity of Hughes' child needs to be determined before a divorce is finalized.

"One of the problems here was that the child was not made party to the litigation," Bastine said. "There are statutory provisions that deal with paternity. Those are the statutes that are critical ones that determine the rights of the child."

Hughes has stated in court records that the father is her boyfriend, Chauncey Jacques, who pleaded guilty to a gang-related shooting in 1998 that blinded an elderly man.

"She has the right to divorce and be free to marry whoever she wants," Sloyer said. "It's about the choice, the fundamental right to choose."

James H. Hardisty, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law, said he had never heard of a judge rescinding a divorce because of a woman's pregnancy, but noted that a 1981 state Supreme Court gives courts the right to put divorces on hold when matters like child custody and division of property still need to be resolved.

I have a slightly different take on this case than most. Other bloggers have wondered about why the child would have been considered illegitimate if the mother planned to marry the father after the divorce is finalized anyway. Her estranged husband is not contesting the divorce.

The estranged husband isn't even the father of the child! He beat his estranged wife. As I said, he is not contesting the divorce. I think this is less about the child being illegitimate as it is about this idiot judge thinking that it will supposedly be born "fatherless." Mothers raising children alone are not considered a "real" family unless there is a daddy at the helm. The treatment of mothers in welfare reform bears this out, with the push for Male Involvement and Fatherhood Initiatives. The mother is free to marry the father of the child - but only after the baby is born, since the judge decided that she can't divorce her husband and leave the baby without a "father." I wonder if her estranged husband will be required to pay child support once the divorce is finalized? I wonder if that was part of the motivation behind the judge's decision - he doesn't want another welfare mother to eat up the state's money.

Once again, giving preference to a flimsy definition of fatherhood has usurped the right of a woman to lead her life as she pleases. Her rights are ignored in favor of "married fatherhood." Fathers' rights is favored, all the way.

Posted on January 3, 2005 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

Comments

I disagree. I don't see what the judge did as a father's rights consideration. It's more a child support consideration irregardless of who the father really is.

Posted by: Masculiste at Jan 3, 2005 10:52:44 AM

How is this a child support consideration? The biological father would be the one to pay the support. Keeping her married to her abusive husband won't change that.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jan 3, 2005 11:56:02 AM

Sheelz is right. The estranged husband may very well be the one who will end up paying child support for a child that isn't his. The mother intended to get the divorced finalized as quickly as possible before the child was born so that she could marry the biological father. The estranged husband did not contest the divorce. I doubt he had any intention of supporting a child that isn't his. The biological father should be the one financially supporting the child, not the estranged husband. This is about a judge who fears the marriage to bio-dad may not go through, who is angry that the woman became pregnant by another man before her divorce was final, and he wants to make sure the child is born into "married fatherhood."

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jan 3, 2005 12:16:40 PM

Well in this case I agree with the Judge...many states have laws that protect the TAXPAYERS in the event that her boyfriend does NOT marry her...then what?

Boyfriends should NOT be given rights...as marriage is the framework that our society provides for men to have legal rights to children...Men who chose to go outside that framework and procreate run the risk of having no rights...and I say GOOD...

These "boyfriends" turning up later are the main prepetrators of much of the chaos in our family courts these days...even that Briget Marks case is a perfect example...

BTW, it's not definite at ALL that the biological father will be the one forced to pay child support as most states have laws that a married man is automatically presumed to be any child's father that is conceived within a lawful marriage...

I mean what if this boyfriend is broke? Who will support that child then?

AND New York by the way, if a biological father is broke, will even make a step person responsible for a child to prevent it from becoming a public charge...

So this case depends on the laws of the state and the husband could very well be responsible for that child whether or NOT he is proven to be the father...The Judge could even estopple the couple from doing a paternity test...so biological paternity COULD become a moot issue here...which is where this Judge seems to be heading...

We'll have to stay tuned to see...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 3, 2005 12:56:33 PM

In general, I'm in favor of assigning paternity to married fathers rather than bio-fathers. Giving the presumption to DNA over marriage would give too much of an opportunity to paramours who had been dumped to keep meddling in the marriage after husband and wife have reconciled.

However, in this case we're talking about an abusive husband who has been in jail for two years, and absolutely no one, among the three people involved, wants the imprisoned husband to be the father of another man's child. The judge is a nut case, and should let the divorce go ahead.

Even if the pregnancy were the result of sex between the husband and wife, the wife's right to get out of a marriage which is physically unsafe supercedes any supposed right of the child to be "legitimate."

Posted by: Lynn Gazis-Sax at Jan 3, 2005 1:22:42 PM

Not only does the wife have the right to get out of that marriage, but so does her unborn baby. She will probably win her appeal.

This judge probably is a nutbag, but one thing....maybe he was looking out for the baby after all....preventing the mom from marrying another loser...... I mean, really......I just want to Smack some people upside the head sometimes.........

Posted by: Moi ;) at Jan 3, 2005 1:32:01 PM

BTW, it's not definite at ALL that the biological father will be the one forced to pay child support as most states have laws that a married man is automatically presumed to be any child's father that is conceived within a lawful marriage...

That's not entirely true. I know someone who conceived a child with a married woman. The husband wanted a paternity test (they'd been separated) and the guy I know ended up paying child support.

Besides, we're not talking about a functional or happy marriage. And I don't see how forcing her to stay married to him is going to help anything. The abusive husband's in jail--for beating her--so support is moot. Further, why should this woman, her child, and this man be forced into a relationship that promises to be toxic and dangerous? It's not worth the supposed support. The child's safety is at stake here.

Whether or not she and the child's father get married is immaterial. Marriage does not equal support. Forcing this woman to stay with an abuser (who is not the father of the unborn child) would not guarantee financial support, even if the guy was out of jail. The only thing it will guarantee is hell for everyone involved. A paternity test proving her boyfriend is the father would legally obligate him to support the child. Even if she and her boyfriend choose not to get married, he would still have to support his child.

As far as I could see from the story, the main concern of that lunatic judge was to punish a naughty woman for having sex with someone besides her husband--even though they've been separated and filing for divorce. Both are amenable to the divorce. He is not contesting it. The judge also seems to think that it's somehow beneficial to have a child be born into a perilous situation with a married mother, than a safer situation with a divorced mother.

And Lynn is right--even if the abusive husband was the bio dad, who cares? She shouldn't have to stay married to him in the name of support, state morality, or anything else.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jan 3, 2005 1:58:15 PM

I live in Spokane (I'm so embarassed) and I'm glad you covered this one... the judge sounds like a complete nutcase, and its fortunate for the public that he's retiring on 1/7/05.

Posted by: Ab_Normal at Jan 4, 2005 8:02:00 PM

"In general, I'm in favor of assigning paternity to married fathers rather than bio-fathers. Giving the presumption to DNA over marriage would give too much of an opportunity to paramours who had been dumped to keep meddling in the marriage after husband and wife have reconciled."

Well it will depend upon the laws of the state...Most presume paternity of the husband without a DNA test...some few states now have started having a 2 year window for a father to challenge paternity, with the exception of Kentucky where you can challenge it at any point...

The American Law Institute has stated that being a father is more then a DNA match and I agree...since it's not good to allow people endless wiggle room to change parentage after the fact...

Opening up the window to boyfriends being treated exacted like married men is causing many of the problems we're experiencing today. Even with that Evan S. whose adoption was thrown out because Evan's father chose to ignore the adoption notification until HIS father nudged him into it...Evan's father actually DID miss the deadline to object but the Judge backdated it for him...

Giving these sorts of half-a@@ed rights to unmarried men where they can pick and chose, when and if to get involved even YEARS after the fact is NOT fair to women, children or other men, who follow all the rules, get married and have children with their rights fully protected within a lawful marriage...

The problem is if the Judge throws out the state law because of this ONE case and the higher court lets it stand, then it sets precedent that impacts every one else...who followed the rules...why should those men be penalized...


Posted by: at Jan 4, 2005 10:04:23 PM

You can't change the laws because of ONE father in prison...

Even if the Judge puts his name on the birth certificate, after the divorce IF she marries the boyfriend, she can have the ex-husband's rights terminated and b/f can adopt...I'm sure ex won't mind as supposedly he wasn't interested in child anyway...

It'a roundabout way to achieve the same result but better then setting a bad precedent...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 4, 2005 10:15:56 PM

"This judge probably is a nutbag, but one thing....maybe he was looking out for the baby after all....preventing the mom from marrying another loser...... I mean, really......I just want to Smack some people upside the head sometimes........."

Well this is the other issue too which I didn't want to me the first one to bring up...and it's usually these sorts of flakes who get all kinds of bad precedents passed that impact all the rest of us...

I mean yes, the husband is a loser but passing a bad law will ensure that many other husbands who aren't losers could be negatively impacted...not to mention giving MORE rights to mere boyfriends and this should be discouraged...like every other b/f who is foolish enough to get a married woman pregnant, he should be made to 'jump through a few hoops' here...

And then once it's precedence what about the woman who has an affair and gets back with her husband, pregnant...as a prevouis poster said should a b/f now be allowed to start invading marriages with paternity claims...

Heck no...

The ex's rights can be terminated after the b/f marries her, then b/f can adopt...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 4, 2005 10:29:18 PM

"And Lynn is right--even if the abusive husband was the bio dad, who cares? She shouldn't have to stay married to him in the name of support, state morality, or anything else."

Well what about if the b/f doesn't marry her? Then what?

That's the problem as I see it. Legally the b/f can just have his attorney request the Judge estopple her or her husband from even requesting a paternity test since legally he'll say her husband is the father...search is ended...

UNLESS they are a state that has that 2 year window...

Remember this will impact others who aren't in jail...

It can even allow men to come out of jail and make paternity claims against children when the mother married a man for stability (while pregnant) who became over time the true father of her children...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 4, 2005 10:37:01 PM

"That's not entirely true. I know someone who conceived a child with a married woman. The husband wanted a paternity test (they'd been separated) and the guy I know ended up paying child support."

That depends upon the laws in the state...

Some cases end up just the opposite...and women have married b/f, who is biological father, and lost custody to husband...this happens also...then biological parents are married but paying support to ex-husband to raise their kid...

This is part of the nonsense that goes on (dare I say it) due to current gender neutral custody trends in courts...

I consider MOST of these situations to be spite-related myself...

Basically entering a court today is similar to a crap-shoot as you never know what the result will be...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 4, 2005 10:43:24 PM

The American Law Institute has stated that being a father is more then a DNA match and I agree...since it's not good to allow people endless wiggle room to change parentage after the fact...

That's for cases where biological paternity is shown to be different years after the child was born and had been raised as the man's own. I agree with that--it's cruel to the kid to do otherwise. But those cases are completely different from this one. The child has not yet been born. The couple is separated and the husband is in jail.

Well what about if the b/f doesn't marry her? Then what?

Then he pays child support. He'd have a hell of a time trying not to considering the case. The husband is in jail, he hasn't had a chance to conceive a child with his estranged wife.

The problem is if the Judge throws out the state law because of this ONE case and the higher court lets it stand, then it sets precedent that impacts every one else...who followed the rules...why should those men be penalized...

So you're in favor of keeping women in abusive marriages then? Oh, that's good for the kid. Sorry, but I don't get with the whole "marriage solves everything" philosophy. Enough welfare reform has been used to force marriage upon people as a pancea for poverty, when the issues run much deeper.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jan 5, 2005 10:20:27 AM

*Sheelz is right. The estranged husband may very well be the one who will end up paying child support for a child that isn't his...*

Trish, I think Sheelz said the biological dad would be the one to pay child support. But that's not the guy she's currently married to.

It sounds to me like the judge is trying to establish paternity under the 'presumption rule.'

If that were to happen, it is very conceivable (however stupid) that the judge would then try to esablish legal paternity to the estranged husband for the purpose of child support, even though he is fully aware that the mother intends to marry the actual biological dad.

Posted by: Masculiste at Jan 5, 2005 11:23:22 AM

NYMOM says: "what if this boyfriend is broke? Who will support the child then?"

Uhh...I'm gonna take a stab in the dark here and say the mother. I mean, how the hell much child support is the jailbird gonna be able to pay? What's he earning, a dollar an hour in the clink? He's not doing life, so you can pretty much bet that if his cigarette money is going to go towards supporting a child that isn't his, he'll get out with a real heavy axe to grind. And that's so beneficial to the woman and her child.

The judge is an idiot. The child will not lose any legal standing by being born to an unmarried mother. The child doesn't lose any rights of paternity. The DNA test is still going to be the same. If the judge is so damn concerned about finding out whether or not this is, indeed, the boyfriend's child....a simple DNA test performed after the child's birth should suffice. Forcing the man in prison, the one in prison for beating his wife to assume paternity for a child that is not his, is not going to lead to some yellow-brick-road of marital bliss upon his release. How does a moron like this assume the bench, anyway?!

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 5, 2005 1:03:12 PM

Ab_Normal: "I live in Spokane (I'm so embarassed) and I'm glad you covered this one... the judge sounds like a complete nutcase, and its fortunate for the public that he's retiring on 1/7/05."

I am glad to hear that. The fewer boneheaded judges on the bench, the better.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jan 5, 2005 1:17:24 PM

"So you're in favor of keeping women in abusive marriages then? Oh, that's good for the kid.

No, not at all women should leave abusive marriages...

I'm just not in favor of giving boyfriends all the rights married men have...

Actually it's not fair to women and children...

Right now a b/f can show up years after the fact and claim paternity and Judges bend over backwards to accommodate them? I say why should this be allowed to happen...Boyfriend not around for one year should have rights terminated whether or NOT another father is available to take his place...That's what USED to happen, it was considered abandonment, now it's called the "prodigal father" and we'll all supposed to be bending over backwards to accommodate them...

That's my objection...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 5, 2005 2:56:06 PM

"The child doesn't lose any rights of paternity. The DNA test is still going to be the same. If the judge is so damn concerned about finding out whether or not this is, indeed, the boyfriend's child....a simple DNA test performed after the child's birth should suffice."

I'm not sure if that's right...it depends upon state laws whether or not the DNA test CAN be performed after birth...not every state has the law of a two-year window for paternity to be established...Some state laws still have laws that husband is presumed father of all children conceived during the marriage...it's that simple...

AND I agree she SHOULD be responsible for supporting any children she brings into the world. The problem is there would be no laws excluding her from applying for welfare if the husband divorced her BEFORE the child was born and b/f either turned out to NOT be father or didn't marry her...

Then what????

Rarely are law made for just ONE person...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 5, 2005 3:08:32 PM

"It sounds to me like the judge is trying to establish paternity under the 'presumption rule.'

If that were to happen, it is very conceivable (however stupid) that the judge would then try to esablish legal paternity to the estranged husband for the purpose of child support, even though he is fully aware that the mother intends to marry the actual biological dad."

Judge is following law of his state not trying to 'establish paternity' under presumption rule...there is no presumption rule...some state have laws that a husband is presumed father of all children CONCEIVED within a lawful marriage...not children BORN while couple is married, but CONCEIVED...

I was asked if I was pregnant when I was divored, it was addressed in our court papers...it's quite common...

AND what if b/f does NOT marry her...or it turns out child is NOT his...then what???

Laws are NOT made for one person...any law or precedence coming out of that court impacts everyone...not just her...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 5, 2005 3:18:09 PM

You're right NYMOM. Laws aren't made for one person. They are made for the benefit of all. And it's hardly to my benefit that some inbred assmonkey judge could force me or any other woman to stay in an abusive marriage because of a pregnancy.

AND I agree she SHOULD be responsible for supporting any children she brings into the world. The problem is there would be no laws excluding her from applying for welfare if the husband divorced her BEFORE the child was born and b/f either turned out to NOT be father or didn't marry her...

Then what????

Why do you think that marriage equals financial stability? Most people who live in poverty don't find buckets of money--or even financial stability--when they get married. The idea that marriage will solve someone's problems with poverty is one embraced by the "family values" right wing, which seeks to force the poor to get married. As if husbands always have jobs, or jobs that pay fantastically well.

Okay, so let's say she stays married to her husband--who's in the clink. That's not going to save the taxpayers very much money. She could still need assistance. (Or not--we don't know what her financial situation is.)

How, exactly, is marriage a pancea for financial support?

But here's the thing--it is not in the best interests of the child or the mother (a living, breathing person) to prevent this divorce. In fact, it puts them in peril.

This case does not give boyfriend's special rights. If she and her husband had been married for several years and the husband had thought the child was his and supported the child, that would continue. There are already such cases. This child has not been born yet, and this woman does not want to stay married. The boyfriend doesn't figure into it.

What would you propose she do if the child was the husband's but he still beat the crap out of her?

You're swinging between an argument for support and against boyfriend's rights. But this case applies to neither--and this woman should have the right to divorce an abusive husband. Freedom from abuse is a basic human right.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jan 5, 2005 4:03:18 PM

...."there would be no laws excluding her from applying for welfare if the husband divorced her BEFORE the child was born and b/f either turned out to NOT bethe father or didn't marry her."

I don't get it...why should she be denied welfare benefits based on her marital status? Welfare exists to help people who've fallen on hard times. Why should she, or anyone else, be denied benefits based on marital status, when they would otherwise be eligible?

Another thing to think about here, is that as long as she is married, she is also responsible for debts incurred by her husband. Many states have laws that require reimbursement to the state for prisoner's expenses. It is possible that she could be held responsible for her husband's expenses while incarcerated, even though he was incarcerated for beating her. If so, then this is hardly getting her off to the financial good start that she needs for parenthood.

Frankly, it doesn't sound like the boyfriend is any Prince Charming either, although it doesn't say in this article whether he's given up gang life or not...that makes a difference. With what I've read so far, I'm inclined to think that she needs to formulate her own plan for going it alone....because from the information given, it looks like that's where she's headed.

So, do we, as a society, want to formulate policy that makes it easier to make positive choices, or do we want to set policy that sends a toxic message...as this judge is doing? Folks, this is exactly the fruit that can be expected of "marriage initiatives" and cultural messages that stress "having a man" as a financial plan, rather than education and a higher-paying job. The types of men this woman is likely to meet in her present place in life are more likely to resemble the should-be-ex-husband than not.

This woman needs a divorce, for her own and her child's well being. Personally, I think the judge isn't concerned about child support (as someone will be paying---or not, as the case may be), as he is about "bastardy", an archaic concept that has no bearing at this time in the U.S. The judge didn't like the way this woman was living, so he decided to punish her the only way he could...by denying her a divorce from her abuser.

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 5, 2005 5:22:44 PM

I am supporting the lesser of MANY evils by supporting a legally married husband having rights over a mere boyfriend...At least a husband is responsible for a hospital bill and a married mother can be entitled to some of the marital assets...what is a boyfriend legally responsible for, NOTHING...

He can disappear and show up 2 minutes after you deliver your child and he has exactly the same rights as you after investing NOTHING in the entire process...nothing...

AND right now many mens rights groups are complaining about why does a mother get to leave the hospital with baby...how come boyfriend can't if his rights are exactly the same?

Where are we heading with that...adjudicating custody before birth...that's where we are going...

Just because ONE woman has an issue and helping HER might be right doesn't mean every other law should be tossed out the window putting many other mother and child at risk for some boyfriend to turn up on the doorstep, maybe at a hospital or even years later and be given the same rights as her, after investing absolutely NOTHING...

I support 'support and married fathers' as the lesser of MANY EVILS that could befall women and their children if we don't support them...it's like Joint Custody, I support that too...not because I think it's the best thing for children, but because again, it's the lesser of many evils that can and does happen all the time to mothers and children when we don't support it...

As cruel as it sounds this woman and her child could be better off having her child born with a legal father in no position to challenge her custody now or in the future...Her b/f can be a father to his child, what's to stop him? As men have been telling us for years, it's just a piece of paper, so what does she needs a marriage licence for? It won't make or break her b/f as a father...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 5, 2005 7:04:47 PM

"Frankly, it doesn't sound like the boyfriend is any Prince Charming either, although it doesn't say in this article whether he's given up gang life or not...that makes a difference."

Exactly my point...why should women, as a whole, want a law that gives recreational sperm donors MORE POWER over them...

That was the whole horror of the Bridget Marks case here in New York...Basically this Judge Arlene Goldberg, turned over another womans' chidren to the wife of her ex-boyfriend to raise...

It was totally and completely outrageous...

At best, she'll be totally disinterested in those little girls and 'farm' them out to professional babysitters to raise; at worse, she'll hate their guts as they look just like their mother and she'll be reminded of Marks everytime she sees them...

Every young woman that I know had that on her mind for week after the fact...making them feel very vulnerable...

Was that a decision that 'empowered' young women...

I don't think so...

So that's where giving boyfriends right ultimately leads...to women having less rights...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 5, 2005 7:24:53 PM

NYMOM, the "legally married father" is a complete shitbird, who is locked up, and clearly isn't going to be legally responsible for diddlysquat, except maybe landing a few more punches and kicks on the mother, after his release. He isn't going to be responsible for her hospital bill at birth! How can he be? He's in the can!! Meanwhile, his wife (possibly) can be held responsible by the state for Shitbird's medical care, and possibly food and lodging while in the joint. Don't you think she's got enough on her plate without worrying about Shitbird? This is an abusive individual we're talking about here. Abusive enough to have been sent to prison, rather than receive probation (which is more common). I was serious about his cigarette money. You don't think this is exactly the kind of individual who would take out retribution? Gimme a break here. No---give this woman and her child a break here. They don't need this asshole for anything.

And by the way---you're for joint custody since when? Every time I've seen your replies, you were pretty adamant about mothers-only custody, unless mom was a proven child abuser or in prison.

The lesser of every evil in this case is to grant her the damn divorce already. Why the hell should there be any hold-up, especially considering her abuser is in prison for his abuse?!!

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 5, 2005 7:37:55 PM

The lesser of many evils COLLECTIVELY for women is what I support...

AND I have many times said I supported Joint Custody...Trish is the one who doesn't support it...

I'm realistic enough to know that the days of mothers getting sole custody without litigation are, for the most part, over and most of us cannot afford to fight through court...thus Joint Custody I see as the lesser of many evils...

I actually posted about the Colonna v Colonna decision here, where PA found that even through the father had SOLE CUSTODY, he still had to pay mother child support based upon disparity in income...

This was an excellent decision which was remanded to the lower court and the mother is raising money right now to return to court and have the formula worked out to see what her ex will pay...

I LOVED that decision...

It was a real ground breaker and ultimately is the ONLY way we will STOP fathers from fighting for custody to avoid paying child support...since eventually they will have to pay it anyway whether or not they get custody...and let's see how many want 50/50 when they have to pay child support anyway...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 5, 2005 8:11:46 PM

And I don't care about her husband as an individual, really I don't...

I care about his status as legal husband not being tossed aside to enable a mere boyfriend to be granted rights...that's what I do NOT want to happen...

And like I said, this woman and her child will probably be better off as well since a legal father in prison is NOTHING but a figurehead wielding no power over her or her child as opposed to the flesh and blood gangbanger she is looking to have placed on the birthcertificate...

Not to mention the thousands of other women she'll negatively impact if this ruling is overturned giving more recreational sperm donors more power and control over them...marriage can balance the power between men and women since when we marry we give the court the right to arbitrate for us...

...a recreational sperm donor boyfriend is nothing but a loose canon with rights but no obligations to fulfill...

It's stupid for women to trade one for the other...even if it doesn't matter to this woman because she's chosing between losers, it will matter to all the other women who get struck with a b/f now with all the rights and no obligations due to this ruling...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 5, 2005 8:22:44 PM

How is forcing a woman to remain married to her abuser, for any reason, collectively good for women? Explain that one to me. How is this decision going to benefit this woman, or any women subject to a ruling like this in the future? How is this ruling going to benefit the child, or any children subject to a ruling like this in the future? It is a ridiculuous and archaic notion that doom and gloom is going to automatically befall a child born to an unmarried woman....which is the real issue for this judge. He doesn't dig unmarried mothers. He knew that this would be a devastating punishment to the mother...."I'll show her!" It is traumatic to be married to an abuser, even when he's in prison. Imagine how she's gonna feel if she gets a bill from the state for his incarceration, because by being married, she is still legally responsible for him.

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 5, 2005 8:33:28 PM

His status as a legal husband should have been instantly tossed aside the moment the prison door slammed shut. Sweet bedda matri, he's locked up for beating her!! Usually wife beaters get probation, or some combination of probation and mandatory anger-management counseling. Rarely do they serve time. So, it must have been pretty serious. Which is probably why she's hooked up with this other guy now....she was looking for a proven "tough guy" who could defend her against her husband.

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 5, 2005 8:59:25 PM

Well I'm getting ready for early bed tonight so we'll have to end this by agreeing to disagree...

I'm talking grand concepts and public policies here and you're talking individuals...so I don't see that we'll ever hash it out and come to an agreement on it...

So good night...

Talk more tomorrow...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 5, 2005 9:50:46 PM

BTW...a family court judge can ALWAYS elect to 'Bi-furcate" a divorce. Meaning, all other considerations (child support, alimony, equitable distribution of marital property) pertinent to the orginal action, shall be held as separate and distinct from the actual granting of divorce, and shall be resolved at a later date.

Posted by: Masculiste at Jan 6, 2005 12:34:39 AM

I care about his status as legal husband not being tossed aside to enable a mere boyfriend to be granted rights...that's what I do NOT want to happen...

I am supporting the lesser of MANY evils by supporting a legally married husband having rights over a mere boyfriend...At least a husband is responsible for a hospital bill and a married mother can be entitled to some of the marital assets...what is a boyfriend legally responsible for, NOTHING...

Wrong. The biological father of a child is responsible for the support of that child. And what assests does her husband have? Zilch. Her husband can't pay for the hospital bill--as you yourself pointed out, he would be nothing more than a figurehead while in prison. He may have a heck of an axe to grind against this woman and child once he gets out, and his legal status--and ensuing power--would certainly put them in peril. There would be NO benefit.

As LaLubu said, the wife will likely be responsible for debts incurred by her estranged husband while they are still married. This could include the costs of keeping him incarcerated. That's crap, and it's hardly good for all women.

He can disappear and show up 2 minutes after you deliver your child and he has exactly the same rights as you after investing NOTHING in the entire process...nothing...

So can a husband, for heaven's sake. What's your point?

I care about his status as legal husband not being tossed aside to enable a mere boyfriend to be granted rights...that's what I do NOT want to happen...

His legal status isn't being tossed aside in favor of the boyfriend. It's being dissolved because his wife wants to get out of an abusive marriage. Remember the woman? You know, the one who got beaten to a pulp?

This isn't about granting a boyfriend rights. It's about a woman's right to divorce and keep herself safe from an abuser. You aren't backing the lesser of two evils. You're supporting keeping a woman in an abusive situation, where her financial burden will increase because of her marriage. Not wise. Certainly not the lesser of two evils.

Sheesh.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jan 6, 2005 9:30:50 AM

"Wrong. The biological father of a child is responsible for the support of that child. And what assests does her husband have? Zilch. Her husband can't pay for the hospital bill--as you yourself pointed out, he would be nothing more than a figurehead while in prison."

Exactly...but a b/f is responsible for nothing for HER, the mother. A child doesn't exist in a void. A MOTHER needs to exist as well and have resources to live especially during pregnancy and for some period after delivery. So what will happen to mother during that period? A b/f is NOT reponsible for spousal support or alimony...For providing mother medical coverage, for sharing pension plan if she's been home having kids and not insured anywhere, for sharing one half of bank accounts and equity in home, cars, whatever...what about ALL those financial assets that spouses must, by law, SHARE...

A husband beats a BOYFRIEND in these areas everytime...this husband does NOT, I understand he's in jail and useless; but every husband is NOT in that situation...I'd have to say MOST husbands are NOT in that situation as MOST men have more assets and higher income then women...

So you're going to have precedence set favoring boyfriends over husbands for ONE bad one...and wind up in the process eventually placing other women into worse situations down the road...it will end with b/f ultimately having more rights and as I said above, if it continues we will be seeing custody being adjudicated BEFORE the child is even born...BEFORE...while we are pregnant...that's where it's heading...

Do you want to leave that as a legacy for women...

Because that's where this will wind up if giving b/f more rights continues...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 6, 2005 2:35:59 PM

This is not about giving rights to the boyfriend, for crying out loud. If he wants to assert his rights as the father, he has to take the initiative. Perhaps this will mean marrying the mother, or perhaps it will mean going to court and formalizing arrangements between him and the mother regarding child support, visitation, and legal custody.

This is about the right of the mother to be divorced from the man who beat her.

Now, I know you think this is some isolated, uncommon scenario, but it is not. Well, in a way it is, because in most cases wife-beaters do not receive prison time; they get probation and anger management counseling. But abuse is common.

What you are proposing, is that all pregnant women should be barred from obtaining a divorce until after they give birth. WHY?! Obviously, you don't consider a severe beating(s) as enough grounds for divorce. Are there any circumstances under which a pregnant woman should be able to divorce? What if the husband had a drug or alcohol abuse problem? What if he had a gambling problem? What if he had ten credit cards and maxed out all of them at strip-clubs and calling 1-900 numbers? Because in those scenarios, the wife would be responsible for all of his bills, by virtue of marriage. If he killed someone while driving under the influence, or racked up all kinds of debt....the wife would be legally responsible for picking up the pieces, since folks who engage in that type of activity usually aren't responsible for shit.

You seem to be operating under the assumption that alimony is a common thing. I've never known anyone who has received it, and I have known stay-at-home moms who've gotten divorced. What is going to be of benefit to the vast majority of women is the ability to get the dead fucking albatross from off around their necks!

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 6, 2005 3:10:33 PM

I told you last night we are going to have to just agree to disagree about this and end our discussion as it's clear we are not going to change each other's minds...

A decade from now when it's common practice for women to be engaged in custody fights with b/f WHILE STILL PREGNANT...

...then you will look back and understand my objections...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 6, 2005 3:24:48 PM

Historically, boyfriends have not been bum-rushing the court system for custody of children. What makes you think that's going to change? And in any case, married or unmarried, this boyfriend, if he is indeed the father, already has the legal right to pursue custody of the child. Again, like Trish has said a million times, you can thank welfare deform for this.

Look, it's not just this particular case. I can think of all sorts of scenarios where a pregnant woman would be far better off with a divorce than staying married until after the child is born.

And I know I can't be alone here in thinking that neither DNA, nor a name on a marriage certificate, is what makes a real father. Being legally married to the shitbird in the clink is not going to make him step up and be "Daddy", even if the child was his. And it wouldn't make him responsible for his wife's living expenses, even if he wasn't locked up.

Best outcome for her? If she dumps both of these guys, gets some education and/or vocational training, and provides for herself. You seems to think she should stake her survival on some man. I say, that line of thinking is what got her into this mess to begin with.

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 6, 2005 3:47:55 PM

NYMOM--This husband cannot provide any of those things for her. And frankly, I have yet to hear of any woman getting spousal support in this day and age--and I do know of women who should have qualified. Most women in this situation--in a minimum wage job, involved with someone who is also in a minimum wage job/underemployed--is not going to be in a situation where her husband can give her any support. They'll both have to work several jobs to make ends meet--and may need public assistance anyway. Forcing her to stay married will actually increase the costs and resources used, not decrease them.

Marriage is not a pancea. It is not a magic bullet.

I am thinking of other women--the women who want to get out of miserable, abusive marriages.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jan 6, 2005 4:14:35 PM

Why is a bf assumed less of a father to a child than a married guy? Being married doesn't automatically make you a good person. It doesn't mean you will follow through with a commitment. Note: Married abuser husband in question is in jail.

But anyway, MANY people don't WANT to be married. So why should a bf not have any rights to his kid at all? I understand your point of a bf "not investing" anything - but most bfs are NOT THIS WAY.

Every situation is different, every couple is different, and courts HAVE to take each one on their own merits. And if you are talking a one-night stand, that is totally different and I agree with the registry-in-every-state thing. That protects both parties. I also can see a no-contact-for-one-year/give-up-rights type of rule, where someone can't come back and say "that's my kid." And I am sure there would be exceptions to that one, too.

But a man who wants to control a woman can do it whether he's married to her or not. He can control the woman through the child whether he's a bf, a husband, or an ex. And if he is a bf and he has a kid with a woman who is not married or married to someone else, that's her own damn fault for not keeping her legs together. Sorry, but I take responsibility for what I do with my private parts, and so should every other woman. And if you pick a shithead to have sex with, then you take the consequences.

Being "for" joint custody in order to avoid custody battles because a guy doesn't want to pay CS is just stupid. Cave in to everything else, too, while you're at it. I would rather give up the child support, the pittance isn't worth it. I haven't had a raise in CS in 11 years because I don't want the court aggravation, and giving hEx the satisfaction of my spending thousands on a lawyer isn't on my agenda. He would love that.

Joint custody gives the guy even MORE control over a woman when he divorces her. Try getting married to a guy who gets transferred to a state across the country and see what happens then.

Posted by: Moi ;) at Jan 6, 2005 4:49:49 PM

Well then don't be for Joint Custody and let b/f have as much rights as husbands...

Ten years down the road women will be collectively kicking themselves as many are sitting (and losing btw) in courts adjudicating custody while they are pregnant...which will mean you don't even leave the hospital with your baby...

Okay...

All to help some gangbanger and the woman who insists on hanging out with these idiots...

Fine...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 6, 2005 6:14:21 PM

(remembering to breathe....)

NYMOM, to begin with, custody battles can't start in the womb under current law. Mom is still going to leave the hospital with the baby. Relax.

The few boyfriends who are going to bother with the time, trouble and expense of going to court are going to be the guys who really want to be fathers to their children. The courts are not likely to award primary custody to gangbanging boyfriends. In fact, in this case, with this boyfriend and his record for having blinded a man, he would not be likely to get unsupervised visitation even if he has left gang life.

And like Masculiste said, the divorce could be bi-furcated here, so I really don't see any excuse for denying this woman her divorce. It was all about punishing the woman. And I stand by my take that she hooked up with this dangerous character specifically to scare off her husband. She was looking for a level of protection that she couldn't find from the court system.

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 6, 2005 8:46:33 PM

*This husband cannot provide any of those things for her. And frankly, I have yet to hear of any woman getting spousal support in this day and age--and I do know of women who should have qualified*

Spousal support is always granted to divorcing mothers until such time as a judge converts it to a determination for child support AND APL Alimony Pendente Lite, latin for temporary alimony.

In PA for example, the law says that there is absolutely no way around APL. All divorcing dads MUST pay APL and CS until such time as all marital property issues have been resolved. This is one of the many reasons why the divorce process is dragged out by some moms for years and years. After that, perm alimony is no guarantee. Each state law then designates what qualifies for permanent alimony.

Posted by: Masculiste at Jan 6, 2005 8:58:54 PM

Yes, Calfornia is thinking of making spousal support/alimony like child support and against public policy to waive it...too many immigrant wives there wind up getting divorced with no income of their own to live on...

So it's making a comeback after years of decline...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 6, 2005 10:02:52 PM

"NYMOM, to begin with, custody battles can't start in the womb under current law. Mom is still going to leave the hospital with the baby. Relax."

That is now...NOW...under current law...but if two separate and distinct entities, not a married couple, living at separate addresses have exactly the same legal rights to a baby...why should they let one take a baby home if the other wishes to as well? WHY?

Current law is modified ALL the time usually by cases like we're been arguing...for instance, it's current law in many states that husbands are presumed fathers of any children conceived within a lawful marriage...yet you are telling me that this Judge should throw that out...

If we continue allowing mere b/f more and more rights (and please don't tell me MOST b/f don't follow through with their rights, we don't know how many do) eventually that will lead to what I outlined in other posts...

If it continues...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 6, 2005 10:12:13 PM

But NYMOM, the thing you keep ignoring is that it's not necessary to prevent the woman from getting a divorce to keep her boy friend from having the same rights to the baby as she does. If you want boy friends not to be able to sue for custody, just address that; don't say that judges should force women to stay married to abusive husbands just to make sure it works that way. As it stands, this case sets an utterly appalling precedent, regardless of how much of a gangbanger the boy friend is.

After all, the judge could just have allowed the divorce, but said that there would need to be a ruling on custody and child support later, because she had become pregnant while still married. Then, since this particular father is an abusive nut case who is still in jail, she could get sole custody, he could get no unsupervised visitation, and it really wouldn't matter what got ruled as far as child support, since the husband has no ability to pay anyway. And there you would have it, a ruling which satisfies all your concerns about not giving boy friends automatic rights to the kids (and remember, I've said that I don't normally want boy friends to be able to sue married couples for visitation), and which still preserves the right of a woman to keep herself safe by getting out of an abusive marriage.

I'm really surprised that you would think under any circumstances that insisting that an abusive marriage stay is better than allowing a divorce; after all, you're hardly a religious right supporter of marriage at all costs, and it's so easy to separate the "does a boy friend have rights" issue from the "should a woman be able to escape a husband who battered her and went to prison" issue. I don't think this judge actually was worried about boy friend rights; I think he wanted to punish the woman for having sex before the divorce was final.

It reminds me of a newspaper article I once read, from back in the days when there was no no-fault divorce, about a case where a judge wouldn't allow a divorce, even though two "fault" grounds were present. There was abuse; there was adultery. But, since one spouse was committing the abuse, and the other spouse was committing the adultery, the judge didn't feel either one was innocent enough to be rewarded with a divorce in which the other one was at fault, so, in effect, he said "Stay in your miserable marriage; you deserve each other."

Posted by: Lynn Gazis-Sax at Jan 7, 2005 11:04:16 AM

La Lubu, to NYMOM: "And by the way---you're for joint custody since when? Every time I've seen your replies, you were pretty adamant about mothers-only custody, unless mom was a proven child abuser or in prison."

I'm rather concerned about your support for joint custody, too, NYMOM. For reference, here's what you wrote:

NYMOM: "...it's like Joint Custody, I support that too...not because I think it's the best thing for children, but because again, it's the lesser of many evils that can and does happen all the time to mothers and children when we don't support it... [...] "AND I have many times said I supported Joint Custody...Trish is the one who doesn't support it..."

I must have missed this the other times you've supported Joint Custody. I can't keep up with all my comments. There are too many of them.

Are you aware of how harmful joint custody is for mothers and children? It is NOT the "less of many evils". It actually makes bad situations worse. If parents choose joint custody on their own, without any coersion on dad's part (who want it overwhelmingly in contested cases) or on the divorce cottage industry's part, joint custody *may* work. Regarding the cottage industries, and they are becoming prevalent in the U. S. and worldwide, there are mediators, lawyers, guardians ad litem, and custody/psych. evaluators who make money by recommending joint custody. This recommendation keeps parents in the court and mental health system, constantly "working things out" for the "best interests of the children." These "professionals" have created their own burgeoning industry from custody cases, raking in lots of money.

Frequently, due to the logistics involved even in the best cases, joint custody does not work. It doesn't take into consideration the changing natures of families over time, remarriages, the primary caregiver role, and the changing needs of children as they age. Children, especially teenagers, want to lead their own lives with their own friends, interests, and activities. When they are subjected to the demands of joint custody arrangements, that demand ignores their changing lives. Joint custody may reduce parents to accountants dallying up time with their children rather than taking the children's needs into account.

Every study out there has shown that children suffer in joint custody arrangements when there is conflict, and especially when there is abuse and power/control issues in the relationship between the mother and the father. Joint custody makes things WORSE for mothers and children, not better, and not even "equal" or even. It artificially elevates less-involved fathers and non-primary-caregiving fathers to an artifically "equal" status. Abusers are getting both joint legal and joint physical custody today, due in a large part to promotions put out by the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers and fathers' rights groups. Giving in to joint custody as the "lesser of all evils" will only make these situations worse.
What exactly is your position on why joint custody would benefit women? It won't, and every study out there as well as problems in the legal system today, right now have shown it. Abused women and children are subjected to more abuse and power plays because of the advent of joint custody. More importantly, joint custody has been shown to be detrimental to children when there are power/conflict issues in the relationship between the mother and father and if there is abuse in the relationship.

Dr. Judith Wallerstein, who is one of the pioneers in family relations and joint custody, has a section her book "What about the Kids Raising Children Before During and after Divorce"( 2003) regarding how to choose custody and indications for and against joint custody. The same is also in her book "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce" (2000). Both books quote Maccoby and Mnookin's "Dividing the Child" ( Harvard University Press) which shows that after two years one third to one half of joint custody children are living in sole custody of mom. Other studies have shown the same thing. While mom may end up with sole custody, she still has the lower child support order that goes with joint custody, so the father is not providing the proper amount of child support that he should be providing. Fathers' rights proponents of joint custody are known for supporting joint custody as a means of lowering their child support obligations.

Joint custody is very problematic for mothers and especially children. I'm disturbed to see you recommend it as a "lesser of all evils." Especially seeing joint custody as a presumption ignores abuse, ignores the established parenting authority of primary caregivers (most of whom are mothers), and ignores the welfare of children. Giving in to it as a "lesser of all evils" does nothing for women and children but make their situations much worse than they already are.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jan 7, 2005 12:38:45 PM

"Joint custody is very problematic for mothers and especially children. I'm disturbed to see you recommend it as a "lesser of all evils." Especially seeing joint custody as a presumption ignores abuse, ignores the established parenting authority of primary caregivers (most of whom are mothers), and ignores the welfare of children. Giving in to it as a "lesser of all evils" does nothing for women and children but make their situations much worse than they already are."

It's the lesser of many evils when you consider how many fathers who don't settle and chose to litigate WIN SOLE CUSTODY or JOINT CUSTODY WITH FATHER BEING PRIMARY...

That's the choice as I see it...

Since you yourself have mentioned many times how fathers who fight for custody frequently win...so Joint Custody IS the lesser of many evils for many many women...

Posted by: at Jan 7, 2005 2:04:34 PM

"it's so easy to separate the "does a boy friend have rights" issue from the "should a woman be able to escape a husband who battered her and went to prison" issue. I don't think this judge actually was worried about boy friend rights; I think he wanted to punish the woman for having sex before the divorce was final."

Is it so easy...

I'm not 100% certain of that...but one thing I do know is that it is NOT good for mothers or children, for men who have invested little, to be placed on the same footing as a mother or a married father...and will eventually lead to nothing but more problems for women...

AND that is becoming MORE of a trend then women not being able to divorce when they want to...


Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 7, 2005 10:54:18 PM

I live in Washington state and I practice family law there.

This case is being blown up in the media, IMHO, because of its sensational facts and attractive victim (this happens to plain women all the time, but I've never seen it on the news before).

The actual explanation of why the judge's ruling is actually correct is boring and technical and has to do with the rules on the entry of default judgments granting other relief than that sought in the complaint (can't do it--that's why the decree of dissolution was vacated) and the unwillingness of courts to enter advisory orders (won't do it--that's why you don't set support and parenting plan for a baby that hasn't been born yet, and might never be).

Whatever this case is, it is not an example of a media-hungry, activist judge.

But that's not as interesting as what everyone thinks the facts to be.

Posted by: the dark goddess of replevin at Jan 9, 2005 10:12:57 PM

I've heard of it a number of times myself...

The divorce is just delayed until AFTER the child is born...then the DNA tests CAN be done and paternity established...It is NOT that big a deal. It actually does protect children I think as well as women, if you think about it for any length of time, as husbands have obligations to child and MOTHER...which b/f have nothing to either until AFTER paternity testing and then only to child...

I think MOST states today have a window, after birth of a child, where DNA testing showing a husband is NOT the father can waive his parental responsibility, but you have to follow the procedures FIRST before that can happen...

I mean for all we know this could be a scam for this child to be born with NO legal father, since I read the other guy is in jail too...THEN she could be collecting benefits with NO ONE responsible to reimburse taxpayers if other jailbird turns out NOT to be father...

The bigger issue I thought was that they appeared to be wanting to give the b/f rights at the expense of a legal husband BEFORE the child was even born...and for all the reasons I outlines previously I would be against that in every way, manner or form...

So it makes perfectly logical sense to me what the Judge did...it's everyone else on here who disagreed...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 9, 2005 10:56:27 PM

dark goddess, can you tell me if this woman would be legally liable for her husband's prison expenses?

NYMOM, where I live, any woman applying for benefits must name the father, or be automatically denied. If the named father does not pan out in the DNA tests, she is also denied. Women in domestic violence situations are often reluctant to name the father for fear of retribution. Certainly you can see where this would present a problem, no? You seem to have the idea that women who apply for welfare benefits are doing it as a first resort, and not a last. Trust me, no one is cutting a fat hog in the ass on welfare. It's much less money than even the minimum wage....the only advantage is that it opens the way for other forms of help like Medicaid, assisted housing, and most important, assisted child care. In my state, if you earn a dime over the minimum, you're earning too much to qualify for child care assistance. It is difficult to make the transition from welfare to self-sufficiency, and I find your characterization of women who seek that assistance as being sponges especially odious.

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 10, 2005 8:59:56 AM

When did I say she was a sponge?

AND most women having kids are NOT on welfare...

We cannnot have every law and public policy be reflective of ONLY women on welfare...as most womens' husbands are NOT in jail and most women are NOT on welfare...

What should we make laws for just ONE person...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 10, 2005 10:02:57 AM

BTW, if wives can divorce husbands while pregnant that can work BOTH ways...and I've known of women who have been dumped off pregnant at homeless shelters after boyfriends kicked them out...

Following the logic here a husband could do the same thing, just divorce pregnant wife and absolve himself of any responsibility for ANTHING until baby is born and he takes DNA test...

AND MOST HUSBANDS are NOT in jail and broke...like this woman's husband is...

Children will be taken care of, but not always pregnant women...and it's not so easy to just claim well, she can work as who is going to hire a pregnant woman...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 10, 2005 10:33:33 AM

NYMOM, you did not come straight out and say that women on or applying for welfare are 'sponges', but your earlier statements about protecting taxpayers, as well as your (seemed to me anyway) positive take on laws that would prohibit unmarried women from obtaining welfare lead me to believe that you take a dim view of women in need. Also, are you not aware that the majority of women in the U.S., including pregnant women, work outside the home?

Most pregnant women are not seeking divorces. Those that do tend to have extenuating circumstances, as this woman does. Not all husbands are responsible, either for their families or for themselves. It's not just the physical abuse in this case that bothers me; I can think of many other situations in which a pregnant women would not just be emotionally or physically better off divorced, but financially as well. What if her husband never hit her, but was in prison for drugs or armed robbery? Many states have laws that require restitution be paid to the victims....if the prisoner is married, guess who gets to pony up the restitution money? Or what if her husband spent all the family income at the bar, or the gambling boat? How is that going to be helpful to her financially?!

Bottom line is, if a woman is seeking a divorce in the middle of her pregnancy, you can damn well bet there's a good reason for it. Let her have the divorce. She is best able to answer that question, "are you better off with or without him?". For many women, a husband isn't a help, but an added burden. I'm all for lightening the load.

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 10, 2005 4:09:20 PM

"Bottom line is, if a woman is seeking a divorce in the middle of her pregnancy, you can damn well bet there's a good reason for it. Let her have the divorce. She is best able to answer that question, "are you better off with or without him?". For many women, a husband isn't a help, but an added burden. I'm all for lightening the load."

Well my last word on the issue is remember the same rights extended to women to divorce a husband in the middle of a pregnancy CAN also be extended to a husband doing the same thing...as I know many, many women whose b/f left them a few months into their pregnancies...

...so this could result in husbands doing the same thing whereas before they could NOT...they could leave but legally speaking were STILL responsible for spousal support UNTIL they could legally divorce...

So keep that in mind too...women are vulnerable during pregnancy and not in any position to have to run around and seek employment or a new place to live due to their husband suddenly up and divorcing them...

BTW, I believe in welfare as as short-term solution to a short-term problem...I never said women who used it for emergency aid were sponges...and where did you get that I said unmarried women shouldn't be eligible for it?...I NEVER said that...

A majority of pregnant woman do work outside the home, but many don't or leave work in their 7th month or so...so no, it's not the time to allow a husband to suddenly divorce...

This can be looked upon as a PROTECTION for many pregnant woman as MOST do NOT have husbands in jail...

Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 10, 2005 5:14:49 PM

Someone asked me above if Shawnna Hughes could be liable for her abusive husband's prison expenses. The answer is no. She and her husband are separated (they are not "legally separated", which requires a decree of legal separation, but they are "living separate and apart with no intent to reconcile"), and his expenses after the date of separation are his because he is not her dependent and she owes him no duty of support.

For more on the legal details of this case see my blog at http://ruthedlund.blogspot.com. I hope to have the actual transcript of the judge's decision up in a day or so, if anyone again is interested in the actual facts of the case.

Posted by: dark goddess of replevin at Jan 10, 2005 11:39:43 PM

Thanks for the info...

I would definitely be interested in reading it...


Posted by: NYMOM at Jan 11, 2005 1:24:33 AM

and the unwillingness of courts to enter advisory orders (won't do it--that's why you don't set support and parenting plan for a baby that hasn't been born yet, and might never be)

I don't think any of us were thinking the court ought to decide custody on a child not born yet. I know I wasn't. I was, rather, assuming that Washington divorce law would work the way I understood (from what appeared to happen in a friend's recent divorce here) California law to work - that you can get first become legally divorced, and then have the settlement of things like property. I see from the legal explanation on your blog that Washington doesn't have "divisible divorce," and perhaps that is my problem with this situation.

Certainly I don't have any objection either to the part of the law that involves presuming that any child born within two hundred days after the dissolution of a marriage is a child of that marriage (I'm in agreement with NYMOM that the presumption should be to assign paternity to whoever was married to the mother at the time of conception), or with the part that says that any reassignment of paternity shouldn't happen before the baby is born.

Rather, I think that anyone who is abused should be able to get out of the power of the abuser quickly, and being merely separated, not divorced and not even with a judgement making you legally separated, seems as if it would leave an estranged abusive spouse with an awful lot of things they could do to you. Once all those forms of power over the other spouse are legally terminated, then it is OK (even if not ideal from the divorcing wife's perspective) if there's a few month wait before the rest of the divorce is settled.

I'm surprised she's not liable for his expenses; I thought spouses automatically owed each other a duty of support, at least until there was an actual legal decree of separation? It seems odd that you could simply physically move out and your obligation would be gone. Although, maybe this is also something that varies by state.

Posted by: Lynn Gazis-Sax at Jan 11, 2005 10:23:44 AM

dark goddess, I'll be keeping an eye out for your next posting on it, too. I understand that you and other officers of the court have a professional obligation to follow the letter of the law, so in that light the judge's decision probably does make sense. But, for us laypeople, we automatically jump to how the letter of the law operates within our lives. I'm a survivor of domestic violence, so my interpretation of what I've read has everything to do with my experience (and nothing to do with how attractive Shawwna is, because the only picture I've seen of her was from the link on your blog; she had a rather average appearance to me). And my state is a community property state, so I couldn't help but think about her possibly being responsible for the cost of her husbands incarceration!

So, in light of your comments I will consider this not a failing of the court, but a failing of the law itself. The judge was doing his job, and the law itself is where the change needs to take place. No one, for any reason, should have to remain married to an abuser.

Posted by: La Lubu at Jan 11, 2005 2:49:00 PM

Yes she is pregnant and married. The reason she can not yet get a divorce is because the child is not her husband's. If the laws were different, then she would have a divorce from an abusive man and be in a relationship with the father of her child, but the abusive man would still be the father under the current presumptive of parentage statutes.

The woman should have a protection order against the husband which would prohibit him from any contact with her whatsoever, Additionally he is in jail. SHe could file the divorce (as this is a no fault state and name another man as the father at the same time). The husband may either sign off on it or DNA test will sign him off.

Now she would have the divorce and the right man established as the father. It is fair to the child and the biological father.

If the laws were changed to allow any man other than the husband to be named as the father in a divorce, then the legal system would be even worse than it is. The judge was correct in his decision regarding the child's best interest.

The Politics need to change, not the judicial process.

Thank you.

Posted by: Seattle_Daddy at Jan 26, 2005 1:57:45 PM

Given a straight choice between a convicted wife-beater (the estranged husband) and a convicted gang-land gunman (the boyfriend), I think the child might be better off to be listed as "born out of wedlock" and "father unknown". There's no law (is there?) against having illegitimate children. Statistically the benefits of being born in wedlock are 90% explained financially. So unless you have some way out religious views (welcome to America) which you insist on dragging into the legislature of a theoretically secular country, its none of anyone's business if she's married or not when the kid arrives.

Weirdly it emerges that the woman herself principally wants the divorce so she can marry the child's father before the child is born. How much more evidence do we need that women know whats best for their own children and should be allowed to raise them in peace?

Posted by: Cruella at Mar 4, 2005 8:21:10 AM

Creating a child with a gang-land gunman: sure Cruella, the ladies really do know best how to do right by the kids

Posted by: Steve at Mar 4, 2005 8:32:31 AM

Plus the gang-land gunman is in jail too, Steve...

So we're changing centuries old common law which will impact EVERYONE basically for a pack of idiots...

Sigh...

Posted by: NYMOM at Mar 4, 2005 9:42:14 AM

"Given a straight choice between a convicted wife-beater (the estranged husband) and a convicted gang-land gunman (the boyfriend), I think the child might be better off to be listed as "born out of wedlock" and "father unknown". There's no law (is there?) against having illegitimate children. Statistically the benefits of being born in wedlock are 90% explained financially. So unless you have some way out religious views (welcome to America) which you insist on dragging into the legislature of a theoretically secular country, its none of anyone's business if she's married or not when the kid arrives."

It's not from a religious viewpoint that people might opppose this...

I oppose it and I'm not religious...

It's from the point of view that the most vulnerable person here is the pregnant mother... and giving the right for women to divorce while pregnant, automatically gives a man the same right to divorce a pregnant women as well...

Then what...

Pregnancy is not the time to have to deal with the complications of a divorce. Maybe having to look for another place to live, perhaps a job, new medical coverage...etc., I mean this could result in women being pregnant with no means of support having to enter a homeless shelter...as the father of your child UNTIL said child is born owes childs' mother NOTHING...is legally responsible for NOTHING...until birth of child...

Legally married husband, on other hand, has a duty to support pregnant wife...

Why must we always throw the baby out with the bath water here for ONE STRANGE SITUATION...laws should NOT be made with one person in mind...as thier impact is universal to everyone across the board...

Posted by: NYMOM at Mar 4, 2005 12:38:50 PM

Spokane, WA has no laws for children left unattened. We are in the middle of a custody battle with 2 children in our home and 2 in hers. The 2 youngest are 12 and 10, she leaves them alone to take care of her siters children. CPS will not do anything about this. Any ideas?

Posted by: Eli at Jul 9, 2005 11:09:34 PM