When You're Expecting To Get Divorced, Suddenly Expecting A Baby Can Delay And Complicate The Process

If you're going through a period of doubt about whether or not you really want a divorce, you aren't experiencing anything out of the ordinary. After all, you once loved your spouse enough to marry him or her in the first place! However, a momentary doubt or an attempt at reconciliation can end up creating a serious issue with your divorce if you or your spouse ends up pregnant as a result. This is what you need to understand about the divorce, pregnancy, and the law.

An unexpected pregnancy during your divorce can delay or halt proceedings.

Some states will grant a divorce even if the wife is pregnant, but some states will halt the divorce proceeding immediately and will not allow them to continue until after the child is born. You are also absolutely under an obligation to tell the court if you know that a pregnancy is involved, 

For example, in Missouri, the court will allow you to file the divorce petition, but it won't finalize the divorce until after the child is born. That's because the husband in the marriage is automatically considered the baby's legal, or "presumptive," father when the child is conceived during a marriage. If you and your spouse agree about the baby's paternity, then the court will set about determining a custody and child support agreement in order to finalize the divorce.

If there's any doubt about the child's paternity, either parent can ask for a DNA test. If it turns out that another person is the child's actual father, then that person has to be added to the proceedings as a third party in order to establish his custody or visitation rights and support obligations.

Keep in mind that this is just an example of how one state handles the issue—you need to talk to an attorney in your own state in order to be sure how your state's laws work.

There are valid reasons that the judge may not want to move forward on your divorce.

Once upon a time, part of the reasoning was that children born "out of wedlock" weren't accorded the same legal inheritance rights as children born within the sanctity of a marriage. While some state's laws have holdovers from those times, there are actually newer, more complex reasons to deny a divorce if the wife is pregnant.

Divorce proceedings and family court proceedings aren't always handled by the same court system in each state. Your divorce might take place in domestic court, while a conflict over custody or visitation might have to be handled in juvenile court if the divorce is already finalized. By refusing to finalize the divorce, the judge is usually hoping to make sure that the child custody, visitation, and support issues are all handled at once. 

This is primarily in the best interest of the child—if there's a question about paternity, for example, resolving it quickly can help keep that child from doing without financial support that's necessary for his or her well-being. There's also a possibility that the judge is concerned about the rights of the father being harder to establish if the father has to wait until after the child is born and seek custody or visitation in a separate court proceeding. 

The best thing you and your spouse can do to hurry the divorce process along is to avoid this particular complication. If it happens, however, try to settle all the issues surrounding custody, support, and visitation before the child is born. That will make it much easier for you to get the divorce to go through shortly after the baby's birth. For more information, talk to an attorney who specializes in family law in your area today.