Earlier this year, a claim spread on social media that a pregnant woman cannot get divorced in Missouri. You might have seen it yourself on Twitter. If so, you might be wondering if it is true: must a woman wait until her pregnancy is over to be granted a divorce in a Missouri family court?
Believe it or not, the answer is yes. Only after giving birth can a woman who wants to end her marriage actually go through with it.
This might sound shocking, but the reason behind the law is not necessarily to control pregnant women’s marital status in St. Louis and the rest of the state. It has to do with paternity and child custody.
When paternity is in doubt
Like most states, Missouri has a paternity presumption for the children of married women. When a married woman gives birth, the law presumes her husband (assuming her spouse is a man) is the father. Even if the couple gets divorced within 300 days before the child’s birth, this presumption still holds.
But if the husband denies paternity, a paternity test will be necessary. And that cannot happen until the baby is born. This could be an issue if there are accusations of infidelity.
Not every man divorcing a pregnant woman denies paternity, of course. But the couple still can’t finalize their divorce until the child is born because the family court cannot order a child custody plan until then.
Using the time wisely
Whether paternity or custody is the matter holding up the finalizing of your divorce, you can still use the time to settle matters like property division and alimony. To make sure you get a fair part of the marital assets, an experienced family law attorney can be a big help.