Facts: Respondent John Corbin filed suit against petitioner Patricia Reimen, his former wife, in the Superior Court for Snohomish County, seeking visitation rights with regard to Reiman’s daughter M.F., his former stepdaughter. The trial court rejected Reimen’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that Corbin had presented a prima facie case grounded in the de facto parentage doctrine. Upon appeal, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and dismissed the case. Corbin appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Washington.
Question(s): Does the common law de facto parentage doctrine, created to provide a remedy for individuals who have served as parental figures but are not legally recognized as parents, apply in cases involving former stepparents?
Conclusion: Justice Charles W. Johnson’s opinion for the Court ruled that the de facto parentage doctrine, which the Court established in In re parentage of L.B., a case involving a dispute regarding visitation rights between two former same sex partners who had raised a child together, does not apply in cases involving former stepparents such as Corbin as recognizing Corbin as a de facto parent would infringe upon the rights of M.F.’s biological parents and as a statutory remedy already existed under Washington Revised Code §26.10 that would allow Corbin to seek visitation rights. Furthermore, the Court held, as the criteria specified in In re parentage of L.B. could not be meaningfully applied to former stepparents insofar as they would be too easily satisfied, extending the de facto parentage doctrine to such cases would be inappropriate.
Petitioner: Patricia Reimen
(Counsel: Patricia S. Novotny and James Davis Shipman)
Respondent: John Corbin
(Counsel: Catherine Wright Smith and Valerie A. Villacin)
Argument: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:00am
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, April 1st, 2010
Prevailing Party: Patricia Reimen (Petitioner)
Court: Madsen1 Court (2010-)
Note: We post only slip opinion(s) as published at the time of the decision. Please consult Washington Reports printed volumes for the opinion(s) in their final form. Each opinion should appear next to the Justice who authored it.