There is never a good time to come to the realization that your marriage is ending, but discovering that you are on the brink of divorce when a baby is on the way is extra difficult. Pregnancy, as exciting and joyous as it is, brings with it huge amounts of stress for everyone involved, and the added demands of divorce are a lot to shoulder even when the rest of life is running smoothly.
Can You Even Get Divorced During Pregnancy?
Some states, such as Texas, won’t finalize a divorce until the birth of the baby—even if the child is not the husband’s! The idea behind this wait is to allow the court to incorporate matters involving the child in the final divorce decree. These orders might include custody arrangements, health insurance coverage, child support, and paternity issues. The courts can’t make these orders on behalf of an unborn child, and judgments involving children are one of the most difficult aspects of the divorce process
It sounds like a long time to wait, but in many cases, it’s not as bad as you might think. Some states mandate a waiting period before granting a divorce. So if the pregnancy is in the third trimester, the wait might not significantly delay proceedings. What’s more, if you and your spouse have a hard time coming to an agreement on the divorce terms, having to wait for the child to be born may be a moot point—contested divorces typically last longer than the average pregnancy.
Paternity Issues and Child Support
In states where parents-to-be must wait until the child is born to finalize their divorce, there may also be presumptions of paternity to address. Texas, for instance, actually has a law in the family code that presumes that the husband is the father of his wife’s child. The husband is able to challenge the presumption with a genetic paternity test, but not until the child is born—so if there is child support on the table, there’s no choice but to wait until after birth to complete the divorce.
The Benefits of Waiting Until Life is Back to Normal
The rollercoaster of hormones during pregnancy can make it challenging to keep a level head in the best of times. Consider if waiting until things calm down to make serious life decisions like getting a divorce would be a good option for you.
Pregnancy is very difficult, but it’s even more difficult when you’re single. The physical, emotional, and financial strains that pregnancy inflicts are only amplified in the setting of a divorce—which is a strain on finances in itself!
Does all this mean you have to wait to file until the baby is born? Of course not. Only you know the best course of action for your situation, and when you know, you know.
Tips to Get Through Divorce While Pregnant
De-Stress Whenever Possible
It’s no secret that divorce is stressful. Too much stress during pregnancy can have serious health consequences for both mother and baby. Long periods of high stress can result in high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as increase the risk of premature birth or low birth weight for the baby. Some research suggests that stress during the pregnancy may even cause the child to develop attention or anxiety disorders later in life.
To help manage your stress levels, try relaxation exercises, and make it a point to get enough sleep and physical activity. Ask your family and friends for help when you need it, whether it’s assistance cleaning up around the house or a ride to the doctor. Take a bath, get a massage, even try acupuncture!
Enlist Your Support Group
Rally close friends and family to help you weather the storm. Go out to the movies, cook dinners together, visit museums or parks, or go on a trip—however you prefer to do it, spend time with your favorite people. Use your time together to decide who will go with you to the hospital to give birth!
See a Therapist
Dealing with the emotions that arise during divorce is hard at any time, but processing them while you’re also making a baby is even harder. It’s important to address the issues surrounding your breakup before the baby is born, so the child can have your full attention and love. A qualified therapist can help parents-to-be work through the thoughts, emotions, and fears surrounding divorce and pregnancy. They can even help you determine what your co-parenting plan will look like after the child is born.
Find a Good Lawyer
The choice to end your marriage will likely be one of the most significant decisions you’ll ever make, so it’s important to consult with an attorney who is well-versed in both divorce and family law. Having an experienced lawyer makes all the difference when you’re going through a divorce, and women who have walked the road alone without legal representation later say they regret it. Your attorney will advise you on the best course of action for your situation, and help you decipher legal jargon, file paperwork, and understand your rights within the legal system.
Draft a Co-Parenting Plan
Even though you and your ex will no longer be married, the child will be tied to both parents forever. For the kid’s sake, try to be civil to one another. Showing respect and a willingness to compromise will help both parents raise the child as effectively as possible. You and your ex need to decide what co-parenting will look like for the both of you. Your therapist can help you negotiate this process.
Don’t Let Your Friends Badmouth Your Ex
It’s toxic for children to hear negative commentary about their parent, so let your friends and extended family know that they must not badmouth your ex around your child. While you’re at it, don’t badmouth your ex to your friends, either; not only is this criticism detrimental to your child’s mental health, but if it gets back to the judge, it could even cost you your custody rights.
Remember There Are No Winners in Divorce
Divorce, like pregnancy, makes emotions run high. Experiencing both of these emotionally-charged situations at once might make this period one of the most difficult times of your life. In most divorces, neither party comes out of the courtroom feeling like they “won” the case, so make it your goal to separate from your spouse as cleanly as possible, so you can devote your attention to your new child.