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In What States Can a Pregnant Woman Legally Get a Divorce in 2024?

The legal landscape of the United States is a complex tapestry, with each state having its own unique set of laws and regulations. One area where this complexity is particularly evident is in the realm of family law, specifically divorce.

A surprising revelation that has recently come to light is the existence of laws in certain states that prohibit pregnant women from finalizing a divorce. Exploring the states where such laws exist and the implications of these laws can help better understand the fear and uncertainty around the legalities of the situation.

The States in Question

There are a handful of states in the U.S. where judges cannot legally finalize a divorce if a woman is pregnant. These states include Missouri, Texas, Arizona, and Arkansas. In these states, a couple may file for divorce while one partner is expecting a baby, but must wait until the baby is born for it to be finalized. This delay is primarily due to issues related to child custody, child support, and paternity.

In Missouri, a 1973 law explicitly requires a divorcing couple to address “whether the wife is pregnant” in a filing, and also requires “any arrangements for the custody and support of the children” to be part of the divorce agreement. Judges have interpreted this to mean they can’t issue final orders in the divorce until the pregnancy is finished.

Arizona also requires the husband to disestablish paternity, should they not be the child’s father, with a Waiver of Paternity Affidavit. In Texas, if the husband is the father of the child, orders for custody and support must be included in the final decree of divorce. If he’s not, paternity must be established after the baby is born.

In Arkansas, the delay is in place in part because of the extra work involved with modifying orders after the baby is born. Couples can negotiate orders for children they already have, along with property division and spousal support, and they can also start working toward a requirement to live apart for 18 months to get a no-fault divorce.

In addition to these four states, there are others where judges will likely make couples wait until the baby is born before allowing a divorce. These states include Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Of course this means if you are not in one of the states mentioned above, you probably don’t have to worry about a pregnancy halting divorce proceedings.

The Implications of These Pregnancy Divorce Laws

The existence of these laws raises a number of important questions and concerns. For one, it means that a pregnant woman who wishes to divorce her spouse may be forced to remain legally married until after the birth of her child. This could potentially place her in a difficult or even dangerous situation, particularly in cases involving domestic violence.

Furthermore, these laws can create financial challenges for women who are living separately from their spouse without court-ordered financial support. They may also complicate matters of child custody and support, as these issues cannot be fully addressed until after the child is born.

Despite the challenges posed by these laws, there are signs of change on the horizon. In Missouri, for example, state representative has introduced legislation that could overturn the ban on pregnant women getting a divorce. This move has brought the issue into the spotlight, sparking a broader conversation about the rights of pregnant women in the context of divorce.

While it remains to be seen whether this legislation will be successful, it represents an important step towards addressing a legal issue that affects many women across the country. As this conversation continues to unfold, it will be interesting to see what changes may be in store for the future of divorce law in the United States.

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