Can You Divorce When Pregnant in Arkansas?
By Wayne Thomas
Extreme conflict between spouses can have an impact on the emotional well-being of children. In some cases, the relationship between married parents deteriorates after the child is born. However, in other cases, parties cannot stay together long enough for the child to be born. While a divorce can seem like the best decision for a couple that is expecting in Arkansas, state law does not allow a divorce to be granted while a mother is pregnant.
Pregnancy and Divorce
Under Arkansas law, you may file for divorce while pregnant. However, you cannot obtain a divorce judgment until after your child is born. This rule is in place to ensure that issues related to child support and custody are properly accounted for before the divorce goes through. In addition, any challenges to paternity need to be resolved. In Arkansas, if a couple is married, paternity is assumed unless contested before the divorce is granted. This treatment contrasts with the rule applied to unmarried couples, which allows paternity to be challenged after the initial support and custody orders are in place.
Moving the Divorce Forward
While you are waiting for your child to be born, you can start the divorce process to help dispense with some of the mandatory waiting periods. To divorce in Arkansas, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for the previous 60 days leading up to filing the action. Arkansas recognizes fault grounds for divorce, including adultery, as well as the no fault ground of living separate and apart for at least 18 months. The filing process requires completing a Complaint for Divorce and notifying your spouse. Your spouse then has 30 days to respond in writing. Even if your spouse responds sooner, no divorce may be granted in Arkansas until at least 30 days has passed since filing. You cannot request a final hearing until all of these waiting periods have been satisfied.
If the relationship between you and your spouse is amicable and paternity is not in dispute, you may attempt to reach agreement on the major issues related to the divorce while waiting for the child to be born. These issues include property division, spousal support, custody and child support. If all issues can be resolved, you may draft a written agreement, which will form the basis for your obligations after the divorce is granted. This results in what is known as an uncontested divorce in Arkansas, and the agreement will become part of the divorce decree if the judge concludes that custody and support are in the best interests of the child and the property division is fair to both spouses.
If agreement on all issues is not possible, you may move forward with some of the pretrial matters while awaiting the birth of your child. This process typically includes exchanging financial information and requesting temporary orders from the court, such as those pertaining to spousal support and property. If a fault ground is alleged, such as adultery, you can gather your evidence for trial at this time, such as deposing witnesses. If paternity will be challenged, obtaining a prenatal genetic test as soon as possible will help both parties better prepare for the final hearing.
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."