When preparing to divorce, you’re most likely looking forward to ending your legal ties to your spouse. Whether you’re excited to start a newly single life or just relieved you’ll no longer be in a bad marriage, the last thing you want is to find unexpected reasons you’ll have to stay in contact.
Unfortunately, that’s just what happens to many couples in Florida who find out they’re pregnant while preparing for a divorce. A pregnancy can significantly complicate marital dissolutions and may even halt them in their tracks.
Can a Couple Get a Divorce While Pregnant?
There are many legal ramifications of choosing to end your marriage. One of the most important is determining child custody, known as parenting plans in Florida. Every state handles custody determination differently, especially regarding children who are not yet born.
Some states, such as California, have legislation preventing couples from finalizing divorces until a pregnancy ends. This is intended to simplify the custody division process. However, Florida has no such laws. In theory, Florida couples can get divorced regardless of whether either party is pregnant.
However, this is not necessarily true in practice. Couples must state whether a spouse is pregnant when petitioning for divorce. If there is a pregnancy, the judge may delay finalizing the split to ensure the baby is born with a legal second parent. There are two ways to avoid this:
- Both spouses attest that the non-pregnant party is the child’s other parent. In this case, the matter is treated as though they are already born, and child support and custody are determined in advance.
- Both spouses attest that the non-pregnant party is not the other parent, and the biological father signs an affidavit of paternity. In this case, the judge can de-establish paternity for the spouse to protect them from illegitimate child custody and support orders and finalize the divorce. The biological parent’s affidavit will allow the baby to still have two legal parents at birth.
If either party contests the parentage of the pregnancy, the judge will likely order the couple to wait until the child’s birth to finalize matters. The paternity claim will then be handled as part of the wider divorce proceedings.
Complications of Divorcing While Pregnant in Florida
While getting divorced in Florida is possible even if you’re pregnant, there are complications involved. State law doesn’t provide specific regulations for determining the parentage of children born to recently divorced parents. As such, managing legal matters surrounding the infant may not be easy. Some of the most difficult considerations include:
Florida acknowledges a new mother’s spouse or domestic partner as the child’s other parent under Statute Section 382.013. However, this is not the case if a couple has divorced.
Children born after your divorce is finalized do not automatically have a legally recognized second parent. As such, many judges will not finalize divorces to prevent complex paternity actions and ensure the appropriate parties receive the correct rights and responsibilities toward the baby.
Deciding Child Custody
Once paternity has been determined, the parents must choose a parenting plan that outlines when the child will spend time with each of them. If this is not bundled into greater divorce proceedings, the process can take a significant amount of time. Developing a parenting plan in advance and returning to court later if adjustments are necessary is typically more efficient.
Awarding Child Support
Child support is often determined before spousal support during many divorces to ensure neither party’s finances are unfairly impacted. If you finalize your divorce before the child’s birth, the court may have already determined a preliminary child support order. Still, issues like fluctuating parenting plans or a baby with unexpected special needs may mean this order must be revised. These revisions, in combination with alimony or other orders from the divorce decree, may significantly stress the finances of the paying party.
In short, getting divorced before your baby is born means you are more likely to go through family court again to address paternity, custody, and support. As such, many couples choose to resolve as many issues as possible in advance but wait until after birth to finalize the details and end their marriage.
Keeping Your Divorce on Track Despite a Pregnancy
If you decide to proceed with your divorce despite discovering an unexpected pregnancy, it is critical to plan ahead. Some small adjustments now can reduce the stress and legal complications after your baby is born. Important steps you can take include:
- Consult with a skilled family law attorney. Working with an experienced attorney makes all the difference in complex divorces and child custody proceedings. Your attorney will help you identify any unique complications in your situation and guide you through the rest of the process step by step.
- Determine the likely amount of child support. With the help of your lawyer, you can calculate a rough estimate of any necessary child support payments during your divorce proceedings. You can use this number to determine if and how much spousal support to include in your settlement without harming the paying party’s ability to support themselves.
- Draft a parenting plan. While you cannot finalize a parenting plan until the child is born, you can draft one in advance. Doing this with your spouse ensures that once the child is born, you can move through the custody and support proceedings as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Getting divorced while you’re pregnant isn’t easy, but it may be for the best. If you’re in this difficult situation, do not hesitate to seek help from the expert divorce attorney at Bergman Family Law. Harrison Bergman specializes in family law and divorce proceedings that prioritize the needs of your family. Learn more about how we can assist you by scheduling your consultation today.