How to Handle a Divorce While Pregnant
By Beverly Bird
When you’re pregnant and divorcing, the effect can be emotionally devastating. If you decide you’re going to move forward with the divorce, you’ll face added stress at a time when your hormones already have your emotions a little rocky. You can get through, but it might require some proactive effort.
Determine the laws in your state regarding pregnancy. Your situation might delay your divorce proceedings or stop them entirely. Florida will not allow you to file if you’re pregnant; you must wait until after your baby is born. Other states, such as Missouri, Ohio, Arizona, Texas and Arkansas, won’t finalize your divorce until after you deliver.
Talk with your spouse to learn his intentions regarding the baby. If you deliver the baby before your divorce is final, your spouse is legally your baby’s father. If you deliver after your divorce is final, this may not be the case, depending on your state’s laws. The timing of your divorce might have long-term ramifications on your spouse's parental rights and responsibilities.
Come to an agreement about child support and visitation now rather than later. If you don’t incorporate such terms into your divorce decree, you’ll have to go back to court later to get an order providing for them. That could be costly both financially and emotionally. Most states restrict visitation with newborns, so visitation might not be much of an issue in the short-term, but it could be later. You’ll also probably want financial assistance from your baby’s father to help pay for the baby's needs.
Establish a safety net for emotional support if your spouse does not want to be involved with your pregnancy, especially if this is your first child. Line up a childbirth coach and join a single parents' support group. If you’re not retaining the marital home, consider moving in with your family for a while until your baby comes and you feel ready to tackle parenthood on your own. If you are keeping the home, explore the idea of taking in a roommate, possibly another single mother, so you can help each other out.
If you planned to handle your divorce pro se, that is, without an attorney, you might want to reconsider. Your pregnancy can complicate your divorce considerably, adding brand new issues to the pot. With the added stress, this might not be the best time for making long-term decisions, so having a professional available to guide you and take care of legal issues for you might be worthwhile.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.