Couples that decide to divorce while one partner is pregnant may be wondering how to deal with divorce while pregnant. Getting divorced under “normal” circumstances is stressful and difficult, but adding the extra stress of pregnancy to the situation may be too much for some people. Additionally, the overwhelming nature of divorce, especially divorce with children, can be a lot for a person to handle. Understanding the ways that pregnancy affects the divorce process and how a person can care for themselves through the divorce is an important step in moving forward with separate lives. While getting divorced while pregnant may not be anyone’s ideal situation, it is often a necessity that the parties can complete and choose to care for and support their little ones moving forward.
The Possibility of Divorce During Pregnancy:
The first step in surviving a divorce while pregnant is to determine if it is possible for a couple to be divorced when there is an unborn child as a result of the relationship. In most states, parties can get divorced while one partner is pregnant. However, a small handful of states—Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, and Florida—do not allow a couple to divorce after the child is born. Other states, like California, allow the parents to begin the divorce process while pregnant but require the parties to wait to legally finalize the divorce until after the birth of the child to establish paternity. It is important to find out the rules of the state in which you live requires. Additionally, watch for residency laws for divorce if attempting to use another state to divorce. Many states require six months of residency before a couple may file for divorce.
While some states do not allow divorce while pregnant, it is more common than most people believe for parents to choose to divorce while one partner is pregnant. Pregnancy, whether a first child or the youngest of a set of children, can cause increased stress on a couple and can also increase the conflict within the relationships. Raising children involves a lot of decisions that need to be made, and disagreements about these decisions may drive the couple apart. Each couple’s reason for divorce will be different, but some common themes pop up. Some common reasons couples divorce while pregnant include:
- Values: A common cause of divorce while pregnant is a difference in values that comes to a head when the parties face the reality of having a child together. This includes things like religion and discipline with the children, as well as the morals that the individual parents hope to instill in their children. When there is no room to compromise on these issues, the couple will often end up divorcing.
- Parenting Style: This is a common factor driving divorce among couples who are pregnant with a second or later child when they get divorced. It may often be because one parent does not agree with the parenting style of the other parent that they see with their kids who are already born. If they cannot compromise, they may end up deciding that they should parent separately.
- Domestic Abuse: This is a common reason that women may divorce while pregnant, especially if they feel their partner may be violent to their child once the child is born. While some people will stay with an abuser for a variety of reasons, having a child to protect may be the reason that the person who is pregnant needs to exit the abusive situation.
- Separation over Uniting: A couple occasionally will feel like having a child together can bring them closer together and unite them in raising the child. While this can work occasionally, it does not all the time and the couple may be pushed farther apart by the stress that having a child may bring.
- Infidelity: While this most commonly comes up as questions to the paternity of the child, it may also be the nonpregnant spouse who was unfaithful and it causes the couple to split. It is a common driver of divorce, especially when a partner is pregnant.
- Depression: For divorces that happen shortly after a spouse has given birth, there may be instances where postpartum depression plays a role. Understanding and addressing postpartum depression could help a couple move forward together.
Regardless of the reason that a couple is choosing to divorce, it is important to remember that it is a common occurrence and it does not mean that either party has failed the child.
Before Filing for Divorce:
When getting a divorce while pregnant, there are some steps a person can take before the divorce is filed to help ensure that they are setting themselves up to be supported and successful in the divorce. After finding out if the state that you live in allows divorce to be started and finalized while one spouse is pregnant, other considerations need to be made. These tips include:
- Legal: Another important consideration is the legal help that the parties should consider retaining to help them sort out the divorce. Understanding how all the different aspects of divorce are affected by the situation is key, and a good lawyer can help the parties see any issues that may arise and need to be addressed. Retaining a good attorney may be the key to a successful divorce and custody agreement.
- Support: One thing that can set a person up to handle divorce well, especially while pregnant, is to create a supportive group of friends and family to help when it is needed. Some friends and family may not understand or support your decision to divorce while pregnant, but finding the people who are committed to encouraging you and ignoring the others can be a helpful tool in moving forward stronger.
- Counseling: If divorce is not a final or necessary decision, it can be helpful to try couples counseling, regardless of whether it saves the marriage. Not only can counseling help parties try and avoid divorce, but it can also help to divorce couples open the lines of communication and establish how to parent their child while not being married.
Knowing that you are heading for divorce from a partner is never easy, but preparing for the divorce, especially with all the extra stress that pregnancy adds, can be a step that helps the actual divorce process move smoothly.
Tips for Handling the Divorce:
Once the divorce is filed and the work of the separation truly begins, there are some other things that the parties can do to help themselves feel prepared and ready to tackle whatever happens next. Some tips include:
- Commit to Co-Parenting: One of the healthiest things a couple can do for their child is to agree to work together to co-parent the child. This does not mean that the parents will always agree on everything, but creating a plan that will give them the ability to love and care for their child is important. Acknowledging the role your ex-spouse will play in your child’s life is vital, and planning for it is essential.
- Feel the Feelings: Divorce is an emotional process and the parties will be feeling a lot of feelings. The hormones that accompany pregnancy may also amplify these emotions for the pregnant partner. It is important for the parties to acknowledge all the feelings that they are experiencing and to process them. Unresolved feelings may end up harming the chances for an amicable divorce and may cause a rift between the parents.
- Accept Help: It can feel easy to try and push through a divorce without accepting help to prove that you can do it on your own. Combining divorce and the birth of a child is a lot of shifting at one time. This is why the parties need to accept the help that is offered if it comes from an encouraging place.
- Be Patient: Because of the extra requirements of determining paternity and sifting residences, the divorce may move more slowly than expected. Reminding yourself to be patient can be a key to surviving the divorce process.
While the preparation is focused on the outward preparation for the divorce, much of the advice for surviving a divorce while pregnant is to make sure to take time for yourself and acknowledge when you are overwhelmed. Healthy co-parenting and children only begin with parents who are willing to do the work to make themselves healthy for their children.
After the Divorce is Finalized:
Once the divorce is finalized, you and your former spouse will have a plan for how to care for and raise the children you share, as well as how to move forward. Choosing to commit to the plan and encourage each other through the issues that will arise to make sure that your children thrive is the most important commitment you can make during the divorce. Finding a way to work together for your children will ensure that you are giving them the space they need to grow and excel.