Celebrities Are Not A Role Model For Your Divorce

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December 5, 2012

There is a legion of media devoted to covering the latest celebrity couples getting together, breaking up, and starting new relationships, sometimes before their old ones are fully resolved. Convoluted and complicated celebrity relationships not only help television ratings and magazine sales, they can also illustrate unusual legal circumstances. Kim Kardashian has a popular reality television show and her ongoing divorce from Brooklyn Nets basketball player Kris Humphries is gracing recent tabloid covers. While Ms. Kardashian and Mr. Humphries debate the merits of a divorce versus annulment, Ms. Kardashian has been making headlines by stepping out on the town with musician Kanye West.

Whether you’re a regular on tabloid covers or just someone going through a relationship transition, the line between beginnings and endings can get a little blurry.  Sometimes, starting a new relationship before you’re legally single can have unintended consequences. Consider for a moment: what would happen if Ms. Kardashian and Mr. West had a child while she was still married? Who would be considered the child’s father – Mr. West or Mr. Humphries?

In Oregon and most other states, the answer is Mr. Humphries. If a woman is married when her child is born, most states, including Oregon, presume her husband is the child’s father. This can create a lot of legal hassle for new parents since Oregon also requires parents to go through certain procedures to establish the biological father as a child’s legal father. These legal matters tend to happen at the worst time imaginable, just when a couple would rather be focused on their new family than dealing with old relationships.

Now, Ms. Kardashian happens to live in California, which has a few more requirements a husband has to meet before the state will presume he is the child’s father. One requirement is that a husband and wife be living together when the child is born, while Ms. Kardashian and Mr. Humphries haven’t been co-habitating for some time.

Most of us live lives very different from those of reality TV stars, NBA players, or chart topping musicians, but celebrities hardly have a monopoly on complicated relationships. Everyday people have many of the same issues, just less publicity. If you and your spouse are thinking about moving on but staying married, consider Ms. Kardashian, Mr. Humphries and Mr. West. Presumed paternity is one of many unintended consequences that can happen as a result of starting a new relationship before your divorce is final.

The law regarding presumed paternity varies slightly from state to state. In the Northwest, the Oregon Health Authority and Washington Division of Child Support are good sources of basic information on paternity. But remember, each situation is different and state laws each have their own nuances. So if you see the signs that paternity issues are in your future or are thinking about whether to stay married or get divorced, contact a family law attorney for advice tailored to your specific situation.