William Stahl (the husband) (defendant) married Mrs. Stahl (the wife). The wife was the custodial parent of three children from a previous marriage. The couple separated, and the wife filed for dissolution of the marriage in October 1981. In March 1982, the wife began receiving public assistance from the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) (plaintiff). As a condition of receiving the public assistance, the wife assigned to DSHS her right to all child support from the husband. In August 1982, DSHS began seeking child support payments from the husband. DSHS granted the husband an administrative hearing, and the administrative law judge found that the husband was required to make child support payments for his stepchildren until the marriage was legally dissolved. The husband petitioned for review, and the superior court reversed, finding that the husband was not liable for child support payments as a noncustodial stepparent. DSHS appealed. The marriage was eventually dissolved in February 1983.