This topic is very important, and the manner in which you handle it will affect how contentious the divorce or separation becomes.
How does getting divorced during pregnancy differ from a divorce when you already have kids?
One of the considerations is how far along is the pregnancy? In law, the unborn child must be far enough along to be considered a person under the law. Typically, this means that the unborn child is developed enough to have a heartbeat and functioning organs.
Unfortunately, one of the other considerations may be the paternity of this unborn child. If there any issues or questions about the paternity of this unborn child, it should be addressed by a DNA test as soon as possible. Sometimes the DNA test costs are prohibitive. So the divorcing or separating parties must consider whether paternity really is an issue. If the parties proceed with the DNA test, it may be prudent to have the questioning party paying for the DNA test if in fact that person is confirmed to be a parent.
Another hot button topic, if the parents of the unborn child agree there are no paternity issues, relate to who is the legal guardian of this unborn child. If the parties are married, then it is assumed that both parents are joint legal guardians to their unborn child. But if the parties or adult interdependent partners (common-law) partners are separated prior to the unborn child’s birth, then the mother could be considered the sole guardian of the baby. If this is the case, then the law only recognizes the mother as being able to make decisions regarding how this newborn baby is raised.
What are some things that a pregnant person should keep in mind during a divorce proceeding that she might not think of?
Firstly, find an emotional support group made up of people you trust and are impartial enough in their support to be proper sounding boards. You may want to consider some personal counselling for yourself, especially if you anticipate struggles when dealing with legal matters or the transitioning into separated households as pregnancy carries added stress due to fatigue, physical discomfort or additional medical complications related to the pregnancy.
Secondly, it is important to attend a family lawyer’s office for a legal consultation. Keep in mind that consultations are meetings with the lawyer to ask basic questions about divorce and separation but does not mean that you are a client unless you retain that lawyer. This way you can become familiar with legal options for setting up parenting arrangements, for calculating child support which includes the unborn child and for setting up the particulars of how the birthing of this unborn child will be handled including whether your ex-partner can be present for the unborn child’s birth, who gets to visit during labour and once you return home with the baby. Believe it or not, some of the most litigated issues are how long do you breast-feed for, do you use a breast pump in an effort to promote visitation with the other parent, do you baptize this baby and do you look at circumcision. These discussions are really about the decision making and how this is shared between separated or divorcing parents. Obtaining legal advice about how to handle these aspects will provide some guidance when setting up arrangements and how decision making could be managed. Also obtaining proper legal advice may circumvent the need for litigation or shorten any ongoing litigation.
Thirdly, it is important to consider whether the new mother has enough financial support to be able to take maternity leave or whether complications that arose during the pregnancy or during the birthing process, triggered a need for increased financial support. It is important to consult your family physician so these discussions are based on medical evidence and not on a subjective feeling of how the new mother is doing after the baby is born.
Fourthly, you may wish to consider whether any relocation issues exist. Does the new mother want to move from her current location to improve any family support or to accommodate a new employment prospect for when she returns to work? Often times, the main issue revolves around the new father’s time with the baby and the distance between the new parents if mom should relocate with the baby.
In closing, remember you are not alone, and there are many resources in your community that can help you. You just need to reach out and ask for some guidance.
Our family law office is just a consultation away. We can be reached at (780) 761-1070, online or via email to email@example.com to book a consultation. Please note there is a fee for this consultation.
Author: Ms. Ning Ramos, Barrister and Solicitor