A Washington State divorce case made headlines in 2005 when a Spokane judge refused to grant a pregnant woman a divorce despite not having a relationship with her abusive husband for a number of years. This case, and the high-profile media coverage it got, changed a lot of minds about the relationship between pregnancy and divorce. It also played a key role in changing the state’s laws.
If you need to file for divorce but are pregnant — or if your spouse is pregnant with someone else’s child — Washington State has laws in place to ensure you can end your marriage before the baby is born. These cases are complex, however, and you need a knowledgeable and skilled attorney on your side. Call David J. Crouse & Associates, PLLC today at 509-624-1380 to reach the legal team you want on your side.
What do the new state laws say about pregnancy and divorce?
In the 2005 case re: Marriage of Hughes, the court ruled against a judge who wanted to prevent Hughes from divorcing her incarcerated husband and marrying the father of the child she was carrying. In response to this case, lawmakers established new laws to prevent other judges from delaying a divorce based on the wife’s pregnancy. These laws went into effect in July 2005.
Based on these laws, pregnant women or their husbands can file for the dissolution of their marriage and receive a divorce in the normal time frame. Judges cannot delay or deny your divorce based only on a pregnancy. If they try, we will be there to ensure your rights remain protected.
How do state laws handle paternity?
There are three situations that often arise with pregnancy and divorce cases. These include:
- The wife is pregnant with the husband’s child
- The wife is pregnant with someone else’s child
- The wife is pregnant and is unsure which man is the father
Some parts of these cases proceed in the same way, regardless of paternity. Others, however, hinge on the situation at hand. When the wife is pregnant with the husband’s child, the situation is the most simplistic. Under the Washington State Uniform Parentage Act, the courts presume the husband (or former husband) is the father of any child born within the 10 months immediately following a divorce. This means the husband is automatically responsible for the care of the child.
When the husband is not the father, however, this raises an issue. To prevent the husband from having a legal obligation to a child that is not his, we need to get a court order showing he is not the father, otherwise known as a disestablishment of paternity. This requires a paternity test or a signed agreement between the child’s mother, the husband, and the biological father.
Some people choose to not finalize their divorce until they complete a paternity test. They often wait until after the child is born because of the risks associated with in utero testing. This is entirely up to you. We can help you weigh your options and determine the best route for your case.
How do the courts handle custody and child support if we divorce while pregnant?
Most people want time with their child if the paternity tests show they are the father. However, the court will likely not put a parenting plan and support order in place until after the baby is born. We can handle this by reserving the issue in the final divorce decree, and planning another court date after the birth. By reserving the issue, we can return to court without filing a new motion or getting a new cause number. This saves time and money for everyone involved.
If paternity testing shows the child is not yours, we can help you with the disestablishment of paternity process, freeing you from child support obligations. If you are a mother who needs support from a father who is not your former spouse, we can help you get the child support order you need to provide for your new baby.
How can David J. Crouse & Associates, PLLC help me with my divorce?
There is no doubt that divorcing while pregnant can make a case much more complex. The birth of a child changes things usually set in stone by a divorce agreement, such as support and the parenting plan. However, this does not mean you cannot get a divorce while pregnant. No matter your situation, we know how to work within the applicable state laws to protect you and the unborn child’s best interests.
We provide compassionate, understanding, and helpful guidance to our clients, getting them the divorce they need to move on with their lives. Call us today at 509-624-1380 to learn more about how our legal team can help you.