Can a Married Woman Get a Divorce if She's Pregnant by Another Man?
By Heather Frances J.D.
If you know your baby is not your husband’s biological child, you can still get a divorce in most states, though state laws vary on divorce and family law issues. Typically, a court will not use your pregnancy as a basis to deny or delay a divorce decree, even if you are pregnant by another man; however, a few states may not finalize the divorce until after the baby is born and paternity is established.
Most state laws presume that a baby conceived during a marriage is the child of the mother’s husband. The presumption is designed to prevent a requirement where every couple would have to prove who the child’s father is before the court could address issues like custody and child support. Because of this presumption, the court in your divorce case will likely presume your unborn baby is the child of your husband and will order custody and child support accordingly.
Challenging the Presumption
The fatherhood presumption can be challenged in court according to your state’s procedures. If you admit that your baby is not your husband’s or if he believes it is not his, one or both of you can raise this issue during the divorce proceeding. It can be documented during your divorce so that you can refer to it later if you need to modify the court’s custody or child support order once the baby is born. In some states, you must raise this during the divorce proceedings or you can’t ever raise it later. You or your husband may need to wait until the baby is born to actually challenge the presumption that he is the baby’s father since genetic testing may be required.
State laws vary on this topic. Texas is an exception to the general rule that pregnancy will not interfere with divorce. Most Texas courts will not finalize any divorce in which a woman is pregnant until after the baby is born, regardless of whether the husband is the child’s father. Even if your husband is not the biological father of your child and the biological father steps forward to accept paternity, a Texas court will likely wait until the baby is born to issue a divorce decree.
Washington law is exactly opposite of Texas’ procedures. In 2005, Washington’s Court of Appeals decided a case in which a pregnant woman was denied a divorce from an abusive husband because she was pregnant. The Court of Appeals determined that it was unconstitutional for a divorce to be denied solely because of a woman’s pregnancy. Washington law now states that a woman’s pregnancy cannot affect divorce proceedings or the dissolution of a domestic partnership.
- Dads Divorce: If My Wife Is Pregnant With Another Man’s Baby During Our Divorce, Am I Responsible For The Child?
- HG Global Legal Resources: Washington Divorce Law
- American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State: Marriage of Hughes
- Ramos Law Firm: Frequently Asked Questions
- HG Global Legal Resources: Texas Divorce Law
- National Public Radio: Washington Divorce Case
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.