Sunday, January 23, 2005

Your Honor, the Nutbag: Judge Stalls Abused Woman's Divorce

Apparently, compassion and good ol' common sense are not requirements to take the bench:

Judge Stalls Woman's Divorce From Abusive Spouse

In Seattle, Shawnna J. Hughes was granted a divorce. But much to her chagrin, barely a week later, the 27-year-old medical assistant was back before a judge, who rescinded the order after learning Hughes was pregnant by another man.

"Not only is it the policy of this court, it is the policy of the state that you cannot dissolve a marriage when one of the parties is pregnant," Superior Court Judge Paul A. Bastine told Hughes on Nov. 4.

The ruling has provoked outrage among women's rights groups and provided ample fodder for local talk-radio hosts and newspaper columnists.

Experts said there was no blanket prohibition in the laws of this or any other state against pregnant women getting divorced; several Seattle-area family law practitioners said that they had obtained divorces for pregnant clients.

"I cannot think of any policy that would require this woman to stay married to a person who was in prison for abusing her," said Carol Bruch, a law professor at UC Davis.

In any event Hughes, who lives in Spokane and is due to give birth in March, remains married to her abuser — a situation she describes as psychologically devastating. She said her six-year union with Carlos Hughes was "more like a prison than a marriage."

When she got pregnant in June, Hughes said, her estranged husband was serving time for domestic assault. She said she has had no contact with Carlos Hughes, who recently was transferred to a jail in Montana to await trial on federal drug charges, for two years.

But, she said, her husband called her grandmother from the jail and told her that he was taking the pregnancy as "a sign from God" that the couple should be together. this is beyond creepy. "It made my stomach turn," Shawnna Hughes said.

Although there is a restraining order preventing Carlos Hughes from initiating any contact, Shawnna Hughes said she was terrified by the prospect of him coming back.

She has custody of their two boys, ages 5 and 3.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Women's Law Center, an advocacy group in Seattle, have joined in Shawnna Hughes' appeal. If the ruling is upheld, they say, it not only amounts to discrimination but also could establish a perverse incentive for an abusive husband to get his wife pregnant in order to force her to stay married. And it could prompt some women to terminate their pregnancies to obtain a divorce.

"You can't use a woman's status as a pregnant person to discriminate against her," said Lisa Stone, executive director of the women's law center. "You simply can't say, well, everyone else in the state is entitled to get a divorce in a timely fashion, except this one group of people."

Some lawyers expressed puzzlement over Bastine's blanket statement that pregnant women could not get divorced.

Further roiling controversy in the case, Bastine told Shawnna Hughes that she had forced a prolongation of her marriage on herself with the "intentional act" of getting pregnant.

"You have created the situation by your own actions that delay your opportunity to dissolve your marriage," he said in the Nov. 4 hearing.

What the hell? Her husband goes to PRISON for abusing her, and she is forced to stay married to him because she's PREGNANT? What is this, Puritan times? The only positive thing I can see coming out of this case is that Judge Bastine has now retired, ensuring that he will no longer be in a position to further traumatize abuse victims ever again. I guess the system DOES work...sometimes.

And they wonder why so many abused women never come forward...



At 12:33 PM, Blogger Ron Southern said...

Welcome back! Barbeque 'em! It never happens, but oh how I'd like to see abusive judges like this sent to Fuckass Prison for a year or so.

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Pixie LaRouge said...

::gurgle gurgle choke cough:: This is beyond "nutbag." This is, well, this is disgusting! "When one of the parties is pregnant" my ass! As if a man could be the pregnant party. So, basically, this judge just got off on the fact that he could control someone's LIFE. Kinda makes me wonder what went on behind closed doors in his home...

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Zen Angel said...

Rat: agree with you 100%.

Pixie: a good point: it isn't as if the OTHER party COULD be pregnant, could he? Morons.


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