Across the country, state laws concerning pregnancy seem to be changing rapidly. You may have heard that Missouri is one of a handful of states where you can’t get divorced if one spouse is pregnant. That’s not 100% accurate. However, getting divorced when you’re expecting a child can be complicated. It’s important to know what steps you can take if you or your spouse is pregnant and you are thinking about terminating your union.
Divorce isn’t prohibited under Missouri law (or any state’s law, at least currently). However, when someone files a petition for divorce in Missouri, one of the things they need to attest to is “[w]hether the wife is pregnant.”
Why judges may opt to wait until a baby is born
While the law doesn’t forbid expectant couples from divorcing before the baby is born, judges typically won’t grant a final divorce decree until a divorcing couple’s baby is born. The reasons for this are largely practical. Judges don’t want to sign off on final child custody and support orders until the baby arrives. Of course, there’s always a possibility that a judge could make an exception.
By waiting until the baby arrives, the parents can amend the agreements, as needed, if something unexpected happens. For example, if a child is born with a serious medical condition or disability, planned custody and support agreements may have to be modified.
You can move forward in your divorce while pregnant
A couple can still use this time to negotiate all of the terms of their divorce – including those related to the baby. Spouses can have everything ready for final approval by the judge once the baby is born. If there are issues they disagree on, a final ruling will probably need to wait. Couples can also begin living apart any time they choose. Certainly, if there are abuse issues, a protective order can be issued. If there are questions about paternity, that should probably be determined as soon as possible.
Divorcing while expecting a child can be an emotional roller-coaster, and it can certainly result in more than a few complications. A good first step is to get experienced legal guidance so that you can work towards doing what’s best for your child and your family.