A pregnancy is usually one of the happiest moments in a marriage, contrasting starkly with divorce, which can be one of the saddest. But what happens when these two worlds collide, and a woman realizes she’s pregnant while working through a divorce?
There’s a simple answer to that question. No, you can’t get a divorce while pregnant in Texas. But that short answer is a massive oversimplification of a highly complex matter. Divorces are almost always complicated, but pregnancy makes things even more so.
To help you understand divorce during pregnancy in Texas, we’ve written this comprehensive guide. In plain and simple language, we’ll explain the exact processes and time involved, the position on paternity, and what happens if the unborn child is fathered by someone else.
There’s no doubt that divorce during pregnancy is a delicate and difficult subject area, so we’ll help you to make sense of it all.
Under Texas state law, you can file for a divorce during pregnancy, but the courts won’t finalize any settlement until after the child is born. Perhaps that’s a good thing because it’s usually not advisable to rush into a divorce. It’s always worth exploring whether you could change anything to help you save your marriage, especially if you have children.
That said, in specific scenarios, there might be a compelling reason for divorce, even during pregnancy. That includes marriages where domestic violence, a criminal conviction and prison sentencing, or infidelity have been present.
Once you file a divorce petition, your spouse has 20 days plus any time up until the following Monday to respond. There are also various residency requirements: you must have lived for at least 90 days in the county where you file for divorce and been a Texas resident for at least six months.
Under ordinary circumstances, there’s also a cooling-off period of 60 days from the first filing date. In principle, you could finalize an uncontested divorce after 60 days, but in reality, the process typically takes much longer. If the divorce remains unresolved, your petition might even effectively expire.
All the above timelines are very firm, but where there’s a record of domestic violence, the 60-day rule might be waived.
The first exemption to the 60-day rule applies in cases of domestic violence. If you have a protection order against your spouse because of family abuse, the waiting period requirement may be waived.
The other exemption to the 60-day rule applies when your spouse has been convicted of violence against you or a family member. The exemption applies even if the convicted spouse is still awaiting sentencing.
Many marriages have survived infidelity, but for some couples, cheating is a step too far and represents the end of the road. There are additional complications if the wife is carrying a baby that’s not her husband’s. However, even when that’s the case, the divorce still can’t be finalized until the child is born.
It’s also worth remembering that Texas is a no-fault divorce state, which means that evidence of infidelity is unlikely to have a significant impact on the ultimate divorce agreement.
When you think about it, in some cases, it might make sense to wait for the child to be born before finalizing a separation. Child custody, support, and visitation rights are an integral part of a divorce settlement, but all are only applicable after birth.
Technically, it’s possible to determine a baby’s paternity before birth, but the father’s identity doesn’t alter the divorce timeline during pregnancy. So even if you and your husband have been living apart for a long time, and you know the baby isn't his, you’ll still need to wait until the child arrives before you can finalize your divorce.
In passing, the law is unclear on how the rules apply to same-sex marriages. If that’s your situation, you should seek advice from an experienced family law attorney.
A paternity test may be required where the identity of the father is in question. For example, a divorcing husband is unlikely to want to pay maintenance for a child that’s not his. If the husband denies paternity, he’ll need to file the relevant documentation with the court and take a paternity test. The court can also order the biological father to take a paternity test if he refuses.
Assuming the husband isn’t the biological father, there are obvious implications for child custody, plus the husband isn’t responsible for supporting a child that’s not related to him.
Parenthood and divorce have one thing in common: they’re both life-changing moments. Add the two together, and you’re facing a monumental transformation. At such challenging times, it’s vital to have the support of the best divorce attorney.
A skilled and caring family law attorney will help you to achieve the best possible settlement - but will also guide you on some of the softer aspects of your divorce, like the importance of compromise and reconciliation.
Divorce lawyers can also help with form filling and meeting critical deadlines. It can sometimes be challenging to think straight when you’re expecting, but a family court attorney will ensure that everything stays on track.
If you’re in the middle of a divorce involving pregnancy, you probably have enough on your mind already. That’s where the knowledgeable family law team at Marble comes in, with a practical, sensitive, and comprehensive approach that supports you all the way. Call us now for a free initial consultation to find out what differentiates us from other law firms.