- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

SPOKANE, Wash. - When Shawnna Hughes discovered she was pregnant, her husband was in jail for beating her. She sought a divorce before his release, and he did not object — but a judge did.

Superior Court Judge Paul Bastine revoked Mrs. Hughes’ divorce until after she gives birth because her husband was not told that she was going to have a child and paternity had not been established.

“It is the policy of the state that you cannot dissolve a marriage when one of the parties is pregnant,” he said during oral arguments in the case last month.

Mrs. Hughes, a 27-year-old medical assistant, is seven months’ pregnant and says her estranged husband, Carlos Hughes, is not the father. She has appealed the decision.

Mr. Hughes is jailed in Montana, awaiting trial on federal drug charges. Judge Bastine noted that Mrs. Hughes has a restraining order that prevents her husband from contacting her, even if they remain married. But critics worry that the ruling will set an unsettling precedent.

“We’re telling abusers that if you can get her pregnant, you can keep her married to you,” said Mrs. Hughes’ attorney, Terri Sloyer.

Judge Bastine, who retired on Friday, said the issue is more complex. Attorneys for Mrs. Hughes did not immediately disclose in the divorce proceedings that she was pregnant. Under state law, an ex-husband is presumed to be the father of any child born up to 300 days after a divorce and can be liable for child support, Judge Bastine said.

“You needed to serve him and give him notice that his rights as a father or as a nonfather were being determined in that matter. It wasn’t done,” he said.

Judge Bastine agreed to revoke the divorce until paternity is scientifically established after the child’s birth, expected in mid-March.

Mrs. Hughes, the mother of two young sons by Mr. Hughes, said they married in 1998 and he began to beat her after she became pregnant with their older son.

She says she became involved with a childhood friend, Chauncey Jacques, and that he is the father of her unborn child.

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