Getting Divorced While Pregnant?

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Divorce can be an emotional and complex process. Getting divorced while pregnant can be even more challenging. There is much confusion surrounding the question of whether you can obtain a divorce during pregnancy. While either party can file for divorce during this time, a judge cannot issue the final judgment — this is because orders for child support and child custody cannot be finalized until after the child has been born.

Can a Divorce Be Finalized in Missouri if the Wife is Pregnant?

A divorce cannot be finalized in Missouri if the wife is pregnant. However, divorce proceedings can still be commenced during that time and the couple can work out many of the aspects that must be resolved in order for a judge to sign the divorce decree. Although child custody and support cannot be determined until the child is born, spouses can work to reach an agreement on things like property division, debt allocation, and alimony. They can also determine custody and support for any children that have already been born.

Spouses are free to resolve the issues that must be determined in divorce outside of court. Alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation, negotiation, and the collaborative divorce process can be helpful to reaching a settlement. They can also be much more cost-effective, efficient, and less stressful than litigation. But if a couple cannot agree on any issues that must be decided, judicial intervention may be required to determine the outcome.

Establishing Paternity of the Child

Under Missouri law, it is presumed that the husband of a pregnant woman is the father of the child. However, if the husband has reason to believe that he might not be the child’s biological father, he may challenge it and request a paternity test. Since prenatal paternity tests are not considered to be as accurate as those that are conducted after birth, a court will wait to finalize the divorce to allow for paternity issues to be resolved — and child support and custody determinations can be made accordingly.

In the event the husband is not the biological parent of the child, he has no legal obligation to make child support payments. He also would not be entitled to custody rights. Critically, if paternity is not made part of the divorce case, the child will be deemed to be the husband’s biological child and the determinations that follow can be time-consuming and difficult to undo later.

Finalizing Child Custody and Child Support

If the husband is the biological father of the child, he has a right to custody and must financially support the child by law. Missouri courts apply the “best interests of the child” standard when making determinations concerning child custody and support. A judge will look at each parent’s wishes for custody and the child’s need for a meaningful relationship with each of them. They will also consider each parent’s ability and willingness to perform their parental duties; which parent is more likely to encourage frequent and continuing contact with the other; history of domestic violence; either parent’s plans to relocate; and other relevant factors.

When it comes to child support, Missouri law determines the amount based on a calculation that applies the gross income of the parents, the number of children, the financial needs of the children, and expenses in connection with child care and healthcare. While the court may order one or both parents to pay support, it is usually ordered to be paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the child’s benefit.

Just because a judge will not sign off on issues such as child custody and support until after the child has been born doesn’t mean that these matters can’t be negotiated ahead of time. If you are going through the proceedings for divorce during pregnancy, you and your soon-to-be former spouse can discuss these issues in advance and resolve them accordingly if paternity is not in dispute.

Contact an Experienced Missouri Divorce and Family Law Attorney

If you are considering getting divorced while pregnant, it’s essential to have an experienced attorney by your side who can assist you with navigating the legal process. Divorce and family law attorney Mark A. Wortman provides skillful representation to clients in the greater Kansas City, Missouri area who are facing a wide variety of matrimonial and family law matters, including divorce during pregnancy. To schedule a confidential consultation to learn how he can help, please contact him today online or by calling (816) 523-6100.

Categories: Divorce, Family Law