April 15, 2005 in City

Pregnancy can’t stop divorce

Rebecca Cook Associated Press
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OLYMPIA – Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill Thursday allowing pregnant women to divorce their husbands – a measure prompted by a Spokane County judge’s strict interpretation of state child support law.

“We thought this was the law about 50 years ago,” said Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, the bill’s sponsor.

The bill was inspired by Shawnna Hughes, of Spokane, whose divorce from an abusive husband was denied by Judge Paul Bastine. The judge ruled state law said marriages can’t be dissolved until paternity is established so the state knows who should pay support.

His interpretation “set very dangerous policies for women, particularly women in violent relationships,” said Terri Sloyer, Hughes’ lawyer.

“You’re basically holding them hostage in relationships with abusers.”

The bill adds two sentences to state law, clarifying that judges can’t use pregnancy as the sole basis for denying or delaying a divorce. The new law won’t help Hughes, who is still fighting for the right to divorce. Her appeal is scheduled for oral arguments next month.

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