In re the Marriage of Dawud A. Muhammad and Cherry Gilbert

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Concerned a wife's right to her husband's pension upon divorce even if he lost his job due to a restraining order she obtained to protect herself against his abuse.

Full Case Titile: 

In re the Marriage of Dawud A. Muhammad and Cherry Gilbert, 108 P.3d 779 (Wash. 2005)
  • Violence Against Women and Girls

Year: 

2005
  • Joined Amicus Brief

Brief: 

Summary of the Case

In 2001, Dawud Muhammad, a police officer, threatened his wife Cherry Gilbert with a loaded gun and pointed the gun at her sister, saying "I'm gonna blow your brains out." The next day Pierce County officials arrested and charged Muhammad with multiple counts of domestic violence and removed from his possession his shotgun and several handguns. In a subsequent marital dissolution action, the trial court denied Ms. Gilbert any portion of Mr. Muhammad's pension, on the grounds that she "knew" that by seeking a protective order against him, he would lose his job.

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum joined an amicus brief in this divorce case to argue that the division of assets in a divorce should not punish a domestic violence victim who took appropriate action to protect herself. The brief argued that by holding Ms. Gilbert responsible for Muhammad's unemployment—rather than Mr. Muhammad responsible for his criminal actions—the trial court's decision undermines the state's clear public policy favoring prevention of domestic violence and homicides and inappropriately blames the victim for the violence perpetrated against her.

Decision

The Washington Supreme Court agreed with the brief's argument and held that a court dividing marital property cannot hold a spouse's assertion of the legal right to a protective order against that spouse, even when it results in the other spouse's loss of employment.