Does Being Pregnant Affect Getting Divorced?
Circumstances do not always permit ending a relationship at a convenient time, and in most cases, a person must make whatever adjustments are necessary to cope with the change. One issue that is particularly complicated to address when one or both spouses want to divorce is the pregnancy of the wife while the case is pending. Pregnancy brings a mix of strong emotions and ongoing concern for the welfare of the mother and baby. In the context of divorce, pregnancy also presents legal concerns related to child custody and child support that a court will want to sort out before finalizing a dissolution. There are specific implications that arise when a spouse is pregnant in the midst of divorce, which are greatly increased if the father of the child is not the woman’s husband. Until these issues are resolved, a court will not issue a divorce, so understanding what the legal process requires in this situation is important to receiving a divorce judgment, and avoiding future litigation to the extent possible. A discussion of how pregnancy influences the divorce process will follow below.
Effect on Divorce Process
Even though the child is not born, the law requires that child custody and child support be settled in the divorce process, which means the judge will have to approve any proposed parenting plan and set the appropriate amount of child support based upon the couple’s combined income and any other children they may share. Thus, the type of petition which must be filed in cases of a pregnant spouse is the same one used to decide custody of minor children generally. Any divorce that involves children takes longer because the court must decide what type of caretaking arrangement is best for the child. This results in these divorces taking an additional three to six months, depending upon the level of disagreement between the spouses. In addition, when a child is unborn, the court is almost guaranteed to delay the conclusion of the divorce until childbirth, primarily to see if health issues are present in the mother and/or child, which will have to be incorporated into any pending child custody and child support agreement.
What If the Husband Is Not the Father?
Under Florida law, a married man is presumed to be the father of a child born to his wife, and unless that presumption is challenged, the man will legally be required to support the child until adulthood. When a man is not the father of his wife’s child, this rule presents a number of problems and adds another layer to the divorce process. Ideally, the child’s biological father will sign an affidavit assuming paternity, and thus financial responsibility for the child. If this happens, it could even result in the divorce being granted before the child is born in select cases. However, if the father is unwilling to take this step, the husband will have to file a petition to disestablish paternity, the process used to disclaim recognition as a child’s legal father. To be successful, the husband will have to prove the child is not his genetic offspring and that he took no action to assume the role of father for the child once the child’s parentage was known.
These cases are highly complicated, and should be handled by experienced divorce and family law attorneys to ensure a spouse’s rights are adequately protected.
Consult a Florida Divorce Attorney
If you are dealing with the conflicting interests of pregnancy and divorce, talk to an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. You need legal advice on how to proceed in this situation, and the attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. have the knowledge to help you get the appropriate outcome. Contact the Fort Lauderdale divorce firm today for a free consultation.