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.