Divorce is never easy and can be especially troubling when you’re pregnant. If you are pregnant you will be able to finish your divorce in the normal time frame. In Washington State, a judge cannot deny or delay your divorce because one of the spouses is pregnant. Your pregnancy will be addressed by the court because it must be disclosed within the Petition for Divorce paperwork.
When the Divorce Process Has Already Started
Information and agreements regarding pregnancy and parentage may be added to the proposed divorce order at any time. Be warned however – once the divorce order is finalized and signed by the judge, you cannot make changes to it easily unless permission to do so was included in the final order.
The Law Presumes the Spouse is the Biological Parent
The law presumes that your spouse is the legal parent of the child, even if the spouse is not the biological parent. It would be wise to settle on who will be the child’s legal parents before the divorce is finalized.
If someone is pregnant during the divorce, the other spouse will automatically be a legal parent once the child is born, even if the child is born after the divorce is finalized, and even if the other spouse is not biologically related to the child.
That said, it is possible to include in the divorce order a ruling that the other spouse will not be a legal parent once the child is born.
When Alternative Methods Were Used to Become Pregnant
If alternative methods were used to become pregnant (assisted reproductive technology; sperm donation; etc.), the question of legal parentage may be about one’s intent to parent a child, not who is biologically related to the child. In these situations, the court will give weight to the intent to parent. All options to disestablish parentage may be used in situation where alternative methods were used to become pregnant.
You Can’t Get a Parenting Plan/Child Support Order with the Divorce
You cannot get a parenting plan or child support order until the child is born. You can, however, ask the court to include in the final divorce order permission to use your divorce case number again later for the parenting plan/child support orders. It’s called “reserving the issue” and can save you time and money. You can do this if:
- It is known during the divorce that a spouse is pregnant
- And, the other spouse will be a legal parent for the child
If the issue was not reserved (for example, because the pregnant spouse didn’t know about the pregnancy at the time the divorce was finalized) then a Petition to Establish a Parenting Plan may be filed after the child is born.
Divorces have many difficult aspects, which is why you need an experienced attorney on your side. Chad Foster is a trusted Washington lawyer serving Snohomish and King counties with an office in Bothell. Contact us today to discuss your legal issue.