Pregnancy

Rights related to pregnancy: can you divorce during pregnancy?

Rights related to pregnancy: can you divorce during pregnancy?

A viral tweet claims that in five US states you can’t divorce if you’re pregnant. But attorneys who work in those states say that’s not true.

WASHINGTON — On May 2, Politico released a draft Supreme Court opinion that would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that guaranteed the constitutional right to obtain an abortion.

Since the news broke, Americans have started to pay more attention to their state’s laws dictating things like abortion access, birth control and pregnancy.

In the wake of this, a viral tweet with over 70,000 likes and retweets claims that in five US states you cannot divorce if you are pregnant. So let’s check.

THE QUESTION

Do the laws of Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri and Florida require a married couple to wait for the birth of a child to divorce?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

None of these states have a law preventing a person from divorcing if they are pregnant.

However, a judge may decide to suspend the finalization of a divorce until a baby is born for reasons of paternity, alimony or custody. This is common in Missouri and Texas, but less likely in Arizona, Arkansas and Florida.

WHAT WE FOUND

The attorneys we spoke with from each state said there were no statutes or laws on the books that prohibited divorce during pregnancy. However, they say that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Kris Hayes is a family law attorney in Texas. According to her, it is actually very difficult in Texas to divorce if a woman is pregnant.

“In Texas, they just don’t want to finish a divorce case with no rules around child support, possession and access, guardianship, and then have to come back and challenge those things in a few months,” he said. Hayes. She explained that there is no hard and fast rule as to why these decisions cannot be made before a child is born, but the courts may want to wait to see if there are any special circumstances that they must take into account, such as premature birth or health conditions that require more or less financial assistance.

“I think it’s just because they don’t want to address what they think the future might be. They just prefer to wait and address the current circumstances,” Hayes explained.

Stacey Mullins, a lawyer in Boca Raton, Fla., agreed, but added that in the Sunshine State that wouldn’t necessarily result in the case being stayed.

“I don’t think you can ever decide child support or time sharing or parental responsibility until the child is born,” she explained. “But I can see reserving jurisdiction for the court to do so at a later date.”

Another problem that arises in all these States is the presumption of paternity. When a couple is married and pregnant, legally, the husband is assumed to be the biological father. If a marriage is dissolved before the birth of this child, it may be born without a legal father and the child would lose certain rights to child support and custody agreements. This is the case in all the states mentioned in the viral tweet: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Texas.

While courts in Missouri and Texas tend to delay marriage dissolution to avoid any of the potential complications mentioned above, attorneys in Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida are generally able to consider these issues in advance.

Arizona family law attorney Claudia Work pointed out that Arizona’s inclusion on this list is wrong.

“People are getting divorced all the time before the babies are born,” Work said. “If there’s a dispute, it’s possible that a divorce will last long enough for the baby to be born. But for the most part, judges won’t delay divorces just to wait and see.”

So while the length of divorce proceedings will vary depending on the couple, the judge, the state and the circumstances, it is not true that there is a law in Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, in Missouri and Florida which prevents a pregnant couple from divorcing.