« Bringing Up Baby Takes A Chunk Out Of Your Wallet | Main | Gay Marriage In Connecticut »

March 03, 2005

Good Sense Prevails In Washington State

The House in Washington State voted unanimously yesterday that "divorces can't be denied solely because of pregnancy." The bill was introduced because Shawnna Hughes was denied a divorce from her abusive husband because she was pregnant. I had written about this case in an earlier post. Hughes estranged husband is not the father of her baby. The judge, who was due to retire in January, 2005, denied her divorce because he was afraid that the child would be born illegitimate if Hughes was divorced by the time it was born. Apparently, Hughes's case was not an isolated incident. According to a Seattle newspaper, "the bill, approved 89-0, would add a line to state law reading, 'In considering a petition for dissolution of marriage, a court shall not use a party's pregnancy as the sole basis for denying or delaying the entry of a decree of dissolution of marriage.'"

Posted on March 3, 2005 at 10:26 AM | Permalink

Comments

Great...

Now we'll have hundreds, if not thousands of men, divorcing pregnant women and NOT responsible for ANYTHING including her medical coverage until AFTER the baby is born...

They'll be in enviable position of a boyfriend, who the minute your child is born has the exact same rights as you do but responsible for NOTHING prior, not even buying mother so much as a hotdog, if she's hungry...

More public policy lunacy...

Posted by: NYMOM at Mar 3, 2005 6:37:53 PM

so are you saying a divorce should NEVER be granted during pregnancy, even if both parties want it, even if the husband is NOT the father of the child (which was the case with Shawnna Hughes?) weird.

Posted by: Ab_Normal at Mar 3, 2005 7:10:15 PM

My only worry about this, Trish, is whether there is an implication that pregnancy, combined with another factor (even a weak one), could be a basis for denying divorce. Please tell me if I'm missing something, but why should pregnancy be a factor at all? (I would think NYMOM's concern could be addressed with orders concerning insurance, money, etc., without denying the divorce decree.)

Posted by: Fred Vincy at Mar 3, 2005 8:15:06 PM

Fred, could you explain in more detail why you think there might be such an implication? The impression I had from Shawnna Hughes's story (I haven't read the text of the bill) is that the judge feared the child would be illegitimate if she had divorced before it was born. Her estranged husband wasn't fighting the divorce, so that wasn't an issue.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Mar 4, 2005 8:41:36 AM

I guess my concern was not for that particular case, which would not survive the statute, but that by saying "a court shall not use a party's pregnancy as the sole basis for denying..." (emphasis added) the statute was implying that a court may use pregnancy as a basis, so long as it was not the sole basis -- otherwise, why add the word "sole"? I really don't know the law in this area, so if there are no other bases in Washington law for denying a divorce, it wouldn't make a difference. However, if a husband could oppose a divorce on grounds of XYZ combined with pregnancy, I could see judges like ones in the Hughes case using XYZ as a pretext for bringing pregnancy back into the analysis.

Posted by: Fred Vincy at Mar 4, 2005 12:21:04 PM

"Please tell me if I'm missing something, but why should pregnancy be a factor at all? (I would think NYMOM's concern could be addressed with orders concerning insurance, money, etc., without denying the divorce decree.)"

Pregnancy has ALWAYS been a factor in divorce and most states DO NOT allow you to divorce while pregnant...Why wouldn't it be a factor?

Regarding living issues for a pregnant woman, could a Judge force the now ex-husband to pay her rent and food bill if she's unemployed and pregnant...Then who will pay for that? Plus I'm not sure if a Judge can force an insurance company to change their policy and put an unrelated person onto their coverage...I'm just not sure...

Not to mention the fact that what if she decides to remarry someone else while pregnant...then her ex-husband has to wait until this is legally adjudicated before he can be named father on birth certificate...that could take months...

It just causes unnecessary complications; many of them will eventually negatively impact the most vulnerable which is going to be a pregnant woman who is in no condition to have to hunt around for another place to live, maybe a job and another way to get medical coverage if we allow this to start...

Because it will allow men to divorce pregnant women, just like pregnant women can divorce men.

It's a two-way street.

Posted by: NYMOM at Mar 4, 2005 12:25:41 PM

"the statute was implying that a court may use pregnancy as a basis, so long as it was not the sole basis -- otherwise, why add the word "sole"?"

Hmmm... I hadn't looked at it that way. I wish I had the entire text of the bill so that I could read it in its full context. I'm looking at it as isolating pregnancy alone as not being sufficient reason to deny a divorce, due to that case and similar cases. But your reasoning does give me pause. I hope the kind of interpretation you fear won't be taken.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Mar 4, 2005 1:55:12 PM

Trish,

I found the statute and summarized what I can figure out in this post:

What's The Matter With Washington

Posted by: Fred Vincy at Mar 4, 2005 5:55:16 PM