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The Marital Presumption in Washington State (and how it relates to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian)

While this blog generally focuses on family law issues facing typical Washington families, every so often a matter facing a not-so-typical family provides an opportunity to discuss a topic that may affect families reading this blog. As many have heard (It’s even being discussed on CNN:http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/03/in-cali-kris-humphries-is-the-presumed-dad-of-kim-k-s-baby/), Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are having a baby together. Meanwhile, Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries is not yet dissolved. According to the article linked above, California has a marital presumption that presumes a husband (or a recently divorced former-husband) of a pregnant woman is the father of that woman’s child. As such, under California law (again, according to this article), Kris Humphries will be the presumed father of Kanye West’s baby. In addition to being terrific tabloid fodder, this also gives this blog a chance to comment on the marital presumption in Washington.

In Washington RCW 26.25.116 provides a similar marital presumption: It states that in the context of marriage or domestic partnership, a person is presumed to be a parent if he or she is married or in a domiestic partnership with the mother or father of the child and the child is born during the marriage or domestic partnership or within 300 days of its dissolution. RCW 26.25.116(1)(a)&(b). It likely comes as a surprise to many outside the legal field that the presumption (i.e. the starting point for determination of paternity) is based on marital status not DNA. RCW 26.25.116(3) goes on to state that the presumption may be overcome only with the adjudication of paternity under RCW  26.26.500 through  26.26.630. Importantly, this may leave a person who is not the biological parent of a child responsible for providing support for the child until his or her paternity can be disproven. Also important to note, there are time limits on when this presumption may be disputed.

The main reason for this presumption is efficiency. In most cases, the spouse or domestic partner of a parent of a child born during (or soon after) a marriage is the child’s other parent. As such, the presumption allows the state to determine paternity of the child without the need for blood tests or litigation. That said, there are situations like the West/Kardashian pregnancy noted above, in which the results elude our notions of common sense and determinations of paternity are not easily made.

If you or someone you know is in a situation like Kim, Kanye or Kris, come talk to a Washington Family Law attorney to learn more about the intricacies and specifics of Washington’s marital presumption.