Can you get a divorce while pregnant? It’s a national question mark. A gray area that isn’t mentioned until it becomes an issue. “There’s no clear-cut area of the law,” said Alan Kopit, practicing lawyer and Legal Editor for Lawyers.com
. “It depends on where you live as to whether you can get divorce if you’re pregnant. It’s a very important issue, and I think states are struggling with it.”
Lawyer and Webmaster of Divorceinfo.com,
Lee Borden says the question appears on his discussion board every few months. “It’s one of those things that can be totally consuming when it is an issue,” said Borden.
For expecting mother Amanda Fox, 25, the issue has been very real and very frustrating. She first found out about the impossibility of getting divorced while pregnant in her state of Arizona while researching Web sites and filling out paperwork. “I was disturbed because I didn’t know that you couldn’t get a divorce while pregnant. Nor have I ever known anyone in that situation,” Fox said. “Once I found out that I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to get a divorce, I just pushed it to the back of my mind,” explained Fox. “I put the blame to myself because now I can’t get a divorce.”
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of the self-help system PerfectlyPositive.com
, Gail Thoen has counseled many couples and individuals in situations similar to Fox’s over the course of 20 years. “In every life there are predictable and not predictable events and. . . a person has to make choices,” said Thoen.
Divorce is a life-altering event that creates a critical transition point in a person’s life. “For example, you file for divorce, it’s in the court, and you find out you’re pregnant--there’s no turning back. This is a critical change in the respondent’s life and in the whole family system.”
Thoen emphasizes that feeling guilty or blaming yourself is unnecessary because there’s no way to change the past. “The appropriate thing to do is plan for the future in a responsible way. No blame, no shame,” Thoen says. “You’re welcoming a new baby into the world and that’s a joyful situation, you welcome new life and bring this baby into a loving environment. You did the best you could under difficult circumstances.”
However, even after the baby is born and the divorce is final, the emotional work is far from over. “Most people don’t dream of getting a divorce and pregnant by another man. There has to be appropriate grieving and [her] main job is taking care of herself and this baby,” Thoen says. “It is the death of a dream and the beginning of a new dream. You have to put it to rest and move on.”
Additionally, there are many legal issues — such as property and finances — that can be taken care of prior to the due date. “When you go into court with papers in hand,” Kopit says, “any issues that can be resolved beforehand would be so helpful because they have to get resolved anyway.”