Experts have long said that at least half of all marriages end in divorce. Many of those breakups take place while couples are expecting a new baby. You may not often hear about people getting divorced while pregnant, but it’s far more common than most realize
Pregnancy can certainly complicate the divorce process from several angles. At the very least, becoming pregnant while in a marriage only to have it fall apart before the baby is born places significant stress on the mother. Furthermore, it raises countless questions about just how the divorce will proceed and which legal hurdles could arise as a result of the pregnancy.
Understanding Potential Problems When Getting Divorced While Pregnant
Numerous points of contention can crop up during divorce proceedings, and they only grow more complicated when pregnancy is involved. First and foremost, Tennessee residents who are pregnant and facing divorce should consider seeking help from divorce lawyers in Knoxville. Having legal counsel throughout the process can eliminate much of the fear and stress that come from uncertainty
From a Basic Standpoint
Let’s start by looking at a few basic points. Not all states allow divorce during pregnancy. They require couples to wait until after the baby is born to start the process. That’s not the case in Tennessee, but it’s true in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, and Texas.
Additionally, remember that there may be a mandatory waiting period when filing for divorce. In some states and under certain circumstances, that waiting period could be as long as a year. In Tennessee, it’s 60 days for those who don’t have children other than the one who’s on the way or 90 days for couples who already have children. If you’re in the later stages of pregnancy, that waiting period may belay any legal complications that would’ve otherwise come into play.
Having said that, the waiting period only applies to the legal aspects of divorce proceedings. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to continue living with your spouse until the waiting period is over. For some, waiting out the storm is the best option due to finances and other reasons. For others, it’s definitely not the right solution.
Obviously, if you’re in danger, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.
If your spouse is physically or emotionally abusive, it’s best to go ahead and leave. Stay with parents or friends or seek help elsewhere. Your attorney may be able to steer you in the direction of local organizations that provide protection and support for pregnant abuse victims.
If you decide to leave right away, whether because of abuse or simply to get out of an uncomfortable situation, you won’t be left to struggle on your own. It’s possible to file for emergency support even before the proceedings are finalized. That’ll give you added financial security until a more solid agreement is reached between you and your spouse.
Tennessee has laws in place for situations like this. From a legal standpoint, a husband is considered to be the father of an unborn child unless proven otherwise because the baby was conceived during the marriage. As such, he is responsible for providing financial support for that baby. You may be able to receive spousal support as well depending on certain factors. We’ll delve deeper into that later on.
If you depend on your spouse’s insurance to cover prenatal care and other medical needs, that will remain in place as well. He’s legally obligated to maintain your coverage during the waiting period and throughout the divorce process. It may be determined that he has to maintain insurance coverage for you and the baby for a specified amount of time after his or her birth as well.
Be the First to File
Now, let’s move on to another important factor. In a situation where the dissolution of your marriage is inevitable, try to be the first to file a divorce petition if possible. In many cases, the first member of a couple to file for divorce has more of a say in how matters play out. That means you may have a bit more control over many of the details you’re concerned about. We’ll cover those points in greater detail shortly.
Taking a Closer Look at Some Legal Implications of Getting a Divorce While Pregnant
At this point, we’ll dig deeper into some of the primary concerns and legal implications involved in divorcing while pregnant. These may vary based on a long list of factors. Still, the following points can give you a basic understanding of what to expect during the divorce proceedings
Determining Custody and Visitation
One of the main aspects plaguing your mind is probably child custody and visitation once the baby is born. That can be particularly complicated with a newborn. Start by considering your spouse’s interest in being involved in the baby’s life.
Does your spouse want to play an active role in taking care of the baby? Does he want to come to prenatal appointments with you or be present during the birth? Does he even acknowledge that he is the father?
Legally, your spouse has a right to be part of the baby’s life and take on at least part of the responsibilities that entails. If you believe he’s a threat to you and the baby, you can and should point that out in the divorce petition. From there, your attorney can help with proving your case and ensuring your spouse is kept at a distance both now and after the baby’s birth.
Otherwise, you and your spouse will need to work out a custody and visitation agreement that best meets the needs of the baby. That may include limited visitation in the beginning. This arrangement can be modified as the child gets older and his or her needs change. It’s no secret that mothers typically receive at least partial custody of the children in divorce cases, especially if they’re babies. Certain factors can interfere, though.
Custody disputes are common among divorcing couples, and that extends to children that have yet to enter the world. Perhaps your spouse wants full custody of the baby. He may try to declare that you’re an unfit parent. If so, he’ll have to prove his point, and you’ll have to dispute it. An attorney can be invaluable here as well by strengthening your case and proving that your spouse’s allegations are unfounded.
When determining custody arrangements, the court will consider both your wishes and those of your spouse. At the same time, the extent to which your spouse was involved in prenatal appointments will factor into the equation. His willingness to provide financial and emotional support throughout the pregnancy will be taken into account, too.
That brings us to the possibility of paternity disputes. We mentioned earlier that spouses are presumed to be the fathers of unborn babies during divorce proceedings. What if your spouse insists he’s not the father of the unborn child, though?
If your spouse doesn’t believe he’s the father of your baby, he can contest his paternity. Still, he’ll need to prove he’s not the father to absolve himself of child support and other responsibilities. He may submit evidence that you had an affair to create a foundation for his claims, but a paternity test will be the true deciding factor.
On the other hand, say you know your husband isn’t the baby’s father. Maybe you had an affair during the marriage, and your romantic partner is the father. If so, you may not want your spouse to have any part in the baby’s life during the prenatal stage or afterward. In a situation like that, you can have a paternity test performed in utero.
Proving that your spouse isn’t the father of your unborn baby could work for or against you depending on the circumstances. It will absolve him of all financial and emotional responsibilities during your pregnancy and beyond. Instead, those duties will fall on the man who’s actually the baby’s father. Of course, if he wants to deny paternity, that could lead to an entirely different legal battle.
On the other side of that argument, disproving your husband’s paternity will mean you don’t have to allow him to be involved in the baby’s life or yours. It’ll also eliminate any custody and visitation disputes that may have arisen in the future. It could further complicate other aspects of the divorce, though.
Financial Matters to Contend With
Now, consider the broader financial implications of divorcing while pregnant. In a standard scenario in which your spouse is the father of the unborn child, child support will be a point of contention. Initially, that may only apply to prenatal care and hospital expenses associated with the baby’s birth. After all, it’s virtually impossible to determine a child’s specific medical and financial needs until after he or she is born.
During pregnancy, child support will be calculated based on the costs of prenatal care and other medical expenses. Your income and that of your spouse will be taken into account as well. Child support arrangements can be modified to include additional financial factors after the baby enters the world.
You may also be able to receive spousal support for a specified amount of time after the divorce. Again, your income and assets along with those of your husband will help determine how much support you’re entitled to. The judge will also look at your living expenses among other factors.
You may only be able to collect spousal support for up to half the length of the marriage. For example, if you were married for eight years, you may only be able to collect spousal support for four years. If you remarry before that point, your former husband will no longer be required to pay spousal support.
Assets and Division of Property
Filing for divorce automatically places an injunction on a couple’s finances and other assets in the state of Tennessee. What does that mean? It essentially stops you and your spouse from withdrawing money from joint accounts. It also prevents either of you from making unnecessary purchases and selling any properties you own either jointly or individually. It essentially brings a halt to activities that could affect finances and assets.
That could be helpful for you because your spouse won’t be able to take money out of a joint account; make exorbitant purchases; or sell real estate, vehicles, or other property. As such, he can’t prevent you from ultimately being awarded certain properties in the divorce settlement. He can’t take measures to reduce the amount of child or spousal support you’ll receive based on his financial situation, either.
As is the case with almost everything in life, though, there’s also a downside to this concept. It also means you can’t purchase a vehicle or place a deposit on a rental home using a joint account unless your spouse signs off on it. If you need to furnish the baby’s room, you can’t use money from a joint account to do so without your spouse’s consent. You can’t sell a vehicle or real estate to finance such ventures, either.
Still, a temporary order for child support and alimony could be your saving grace here. Additionally, the injunction makes exceptions for basic living expenses. An attorney can help with laying out your monetary needs and proving them. In turn, you’ll be less likely to face financial hardship and all the stress that comes with it both before and after the baby is born. As the divorce proceedings progress, the division of assets will be determined accordingly.
Keeping Everyone’s Best Interests in Mind
Divorce is stressful under any circumstances. If you’re forging through the dissolution of a marriage while pregnant, it can be even more trying. Pregnancy can certainly complicate a divorce from a legal perspective as well as an emotional standpoint.
Having a lawyer on your side can make matters a bit simpler and aid in clearing up the uncertainty involved. Consider consulting with an attorney as early as possible after deciding divorce is the best solution to protect yourself as well as your unborn child. You may even want to speak with a legal representative before filing for divorce to better understand how the laws apply to your unique situation.