Life circumstances often require people to file for divorce while pregnant, which may contribute to additional stress or make the procedure even more unpleasant. While there’s nothing unethical or illegal in such a situation, pregnancy may sometimes prolong or complicate the process, making it harder to settle certain disputes or leading to decisions you did not expect or desire. Besides, the legislature in some states may discourage you from getting a divorce if one of the parties is pregnant.
Couples may have various reasons for marriage dissolution while the wife is expecting a child. Some women, for example, may be getting a divorce while pregnant by someone else; others want to escape abusive relationships to protect their future baby. In any case, you should know the possible pitfalls of such a decision, consider important issues, and be aware of the legislative regulations effective in your state.
In this publication, we will address one of the most pressing questions you may face during marriage dissolution, which is, “Can you get divorced while pregnant?”, looking into its different aspects.
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Can I File for Divorce during Pregnancy?
Technically, pregnancy is not an obstacle to filing for divorce in most states. However, it is very likely to make the process much longer and more complicated. In addition, some of the final decisions on child custody and support may be somewhat imperfect due to the fact that the baby is physically nonexistent yet, which hinders the determination of its needs and best interests. Moreover, definite state laws will prompt the judge on whether to proceed with the marriage termination or not.
Indeed, some jurisdictions set certain restrictions on cases that involve pregnancy and prevent the court from issuing the final orders until the baby is born. For example, you can’t get divorced while pregnant in states like Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas since the judge should address the issue of paternity to establish proper judgments concerning custody and support. In Florida, you may only face challenges if you intend to file for simplified dissolution of marriage since “Neither party is pregnant” is one of the obligatory requirements the couple should meet during this procedure.
Of course, if you are pregnant and want a divorce as soon as possible, no matter what, you may be tempted to conceal the fact of your pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is little chance that you can keep the cat in the bag while the process is ongoing. Sooner or later, it will become obvious that you are expecting, or you may be asked about unborn children in some divorce forms. Therefore, hiding pregnancy when getting a divorce is considered perjury, which is unethical and illegal, entailing serious legal consequences. Besides, if you conceal your state, the court will not grant you any custody or support rights for the future baby, putting you at a disadvantage in this divorce process.
Steps to Consider Before Filing for Divorce
If there is no other way out and the only option is to file for divorce during pregnancy, you will need to take into consideration certain aspects that will have a significant influence on your own and your baby’s future and overall well-being.
Of course, it would be better to wait until the baby is born to undergo this stressful process, which would ensure its health and safety as well as adequately made decisions on child-related matters. Unfortunately, procrastination may be detrimental in some situations, especially if domestic violence is involved, which would push you to act without delay. In such cases, be sure to consider essential issues of health and financial security with short- and long-term implications for both of you. Seek answers to questions like “Can someone help you work it through with less stress?”, “What will be your financial situation after the divorce?”, “Can you get child support while pregnant?”, “How to arrange child custody?”, etc.
- Support System
Divorce is one of the most unpleasant events in a person’s life that entails much stress, which is not good for all the parties involved. Expecting women are especially susceptible and vulnerable to various perturbations, while emotional shocks may have serious implications for both the mother’s and the unborn baby’s mental and physical health.
So, if you are divorcing and pregnant, do your best to ensure maximum emotional stability during this uneasy period. While it may be quite challenging to do this in a difficult contested case, still try to minimize stress levels as much as possible to avoid negative influence on the fetus and ensure its healthy development.
Secure reliable support from your family and friends who can help with your house chores or take care of your other children while you are working through the marriage dissolution process. Make sure there is someone you can just talk to for emotional discharge. Do not hesitate to ask for and accept as much help as you need to take away at least some part of unnecessary stress.
- Financial Strategy
Divorce means a transition from a married to a single life, which also entails a change in your financial status in terms of obvious budget reduction. Therefore, thinking through the financial strategy for your future is imperative.
Moreover, in several months, you’ll have a newborn, who may be one more child if you already have some – a fact that must also be taken into consideration. As a rule, if the mother is mentally and physically fit to be a parent, infants stay with them after divorce. So, if you are divorcing while pregnant, you’ll need to think not only about your own well-being but about your newborn baby’s as well.
When devising your financial strategy for the ongoing marriage dissolution process and after it is finalized, think through the following issues to ensure a comfortable financial environment for yourself and all your dependent children:
- Prenatal expenses. Consider necessary medical check-ups, tests, ultrasounds, medication, possible birthing classes, etc. Besides, maternity insurance or other possible coverage plan must be taken into consideration.
- Postnatal costs. After the baby is born, you’ll meet expenses on further check-ups, vaccinations, medical consultations, and other essentials. Childcare and daycare expenses may take up a significant part of the budget, while you’ll be forced to stay out of work for some time due to the same matters.
- Other children. If it’s not your first child, you should also evaluate the needs of your elder kids to manage your budget after the divorce.
- Earnings. Reasonably assess your earning capacity, employability, all possible sources of income, and tax returns to match them with the expenses. Do not forget to consider time off the job to care for the newborn baby.
- Property. Evaluate your personal assets and marital property that you may be entitled to after divorce. Think about how it may fit into your overall budget and help you meet your children’s needs when the process is finalized.
- Child and spousal support. Plan filing for alimony and financial support for the unborn baby. Courts often issue temporary orders during the ongoing divorce process, so get to know how to file for child support while pregnant in advance.
- Impact on Child Custody
Depending on your personal situation, you may have various views on future child custody and your own reasons for such a consideration. Even dissolving your marriage with the husband, you may still want him to bond with the future baby and take part in its upbringing. However, it’s also possible that you might plan to prevent any connections of your soon-to-be ex with the child and raise it alone. Such a situation is possible if you divorce due to abuse or if your husband is not the biological father.
In favorable circumstances and an amicable marriage dissolution case, you can make a marital settlement agreement and draft a parenting plan, outlining all the terms of physical and legal custody. Physical custody determines whom your child (or children) will live with and who will have visitation rights (if any). In the parenting plan, you will need to specify how much time they will spend with the non-custodial parent, what are the visitation days and time, with whom they will spend vacations, holidays, and special events, etc. Legal custody means the right to make essential child-related decisions concerning healthcare, schooling, religion, etc.
While custody battles are almost inevitable in any of the mentioned cases, you can make an important contribution to the final judgment by gathering evidence for the court. It may help the judge make a reasonable decision concerning sole or joint custody and all the physical and legal custodial rights mentioned above.
Since the father’s involvement in the life of his wife and the unborn child during the whole pregnancy period is an essential factor that influences the court’s decisions, his actions and behavior can affect the final orders. Therefore, start monitoring and recording all the cases of your husband’s presence or absence during ultrasounds and check-ups, birthing or parental classes, and other child-related activities, his behavior and attitude towards you, your children, and the unborn baby, things he has bought or made for the child to be born, etc. The court will surely take them into account while making the decision.
Why Do Some States Prohibit Divorce During Pregnancy?
If some states set any restrictions on granting divorce during pregnancy, the main reason for such a stand may be the possible complications in making some crucial decisions.
For a start, we should specify what states allow divorce while pregnant. As a matter of fact, all of them do. You cannot find any relevant specific restrictions or prohibitions stipulated in the statutes of any state. The only exception may be the case of filing the petition for a full-agreement divorce jointly. While some jurisdictions allow a simplified divorce procedure when spouses agree on all the issues and terms, “neither party is pregnant” may be presented as one of the requirements for the couple to be eligible for such an option.
In a regular marriage dissolution process, none of the states has any specific law that would ban anyone from filing for or getting a divorce during pregnancy. Nevertheless, the judge, at their own discretion, may decide to postpone the issuance of any orders and finalizing the process until the child is born. This decision will greatly depend on the state, the judge, the circumstances, and every individual case. Such a situation will naturally prolong the process and delay the final judgment.
So, let’s figure out the reasons for such postponements and why you can’t get divorced while pregnant in some states.
According to the family law, both biological parents are responsible for the child’s upbringing and financial support. In such cases, the question of paternity arises, which can be established only after the baby is born.
Moreover, in most jurisdictions, the presumption of fatherhood stipulates that the husband in a legal marriage is the biological father of the unborn child, which automatically involves him in custody and support matters. On the other hand, according to the legislature in some states, the baby may be born without any legal father if it arrives after the marriage is dissolved. In both cases, decisions on child custody and support are significantly complicated, which is why it is better to postpone them.
Even if paternity is not questioned, many judges still prefer to issue the orders to people they can actually see. However, when the child does not exist yet, it’s difficult for the court to do this since it cannot establish this child’s best interests to make any rulings. On the one hand, such a reason may even sound funny since a newborn child does not have the physical ability to have a say in the case in contrast to a bit older children, for example, whose voice may be considered by the judge. Nevertheless, if a baby is born with some disability, which makes a change in its and its mother’s needs, the terms of custody and financial support may require serious modifications.
Some courts may grant a divorce and add child custody and support orders to the final decree later, after the child is born. Others prefer to resolve all the disputes and issue all the orders without the necessity to get back to the case, reexamine it, and add modifications to the judgments. In such a case, you will really need to wait until the court agrees to finalize your case. By the way, filing these additional motions and applications after the marriage has been dissolved would not only prolong your suffering in the courtroom but also add unnecessary expenses. So, it may be advisable not to rush with filing while you or your spouse is still pregnant.
Overall, no court can refuse your divorce petition because one of the parties is expecting at the moment. Still, some of them may advise you to wait until your baby is born to get the final orders, like in Kentucky or Texas, for example, while courts in states like Washington will dissolve your marriage without any delays, even during pregnancy. However, none of the state laws prohibits an expecting woman or her husband from filing for marriage dissolution. So, you are totally free to at least initiate your case wherever you live.
Filing for divorce while you are still expecting may save your emotional stability or even life by distancing you from your spouse. Such a decision is crucial in the most dangerous cases of abusive relationships, especially if physical violence is involved.