As a legal proceeding, divorce must be approved by state courts before it is finalized in Missouri. Certain requirements must be met before divorce proceedings can be completed. If a couple seeks divorce while the woman is pregnant, the court must consider additional factors. Pregnancy can delay the finalization of divorce until after the child is born.
Whether the woman is pregnant or not, the court must consider a marriage to be beyond hope for repair for a divorce to be granted in Missouri. If both spouses agree this is the case, divorce typically is allowed. If one spouse disagrees, other conditions can qualify as grounds for divorce, including adultery, abuse or abandonment. If children are involved, divorce proceedings often last longer as courts settle issues involving child custody and child support.
Even if the courts determine adequate grounds for divorce exist, pregnancy may complicate divorce proceedings. Typically, courts in Missouri wait to finalize a divorce until after the wife has given birth. That enables courts to more effectively handle paternity testing and child support determinations. After the child is born and the divorce is finalized, the husband is ordered to pay child support only if he is the father of the child, although spousal support may be ordered if he isn't the father.
Courts in Missouri take potential child support payments into account during divorce proceedings. As a result, the court must know whether the husband is the father of the child. If a husband agrees he is the father, he may sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity. However, if he contests paternity, courts typically order a paternity test, which involves gathering genetic samples from the mother, child and alleged father. A laboratory tests the samples and can determine with 98 percent certainty whether the husband is the father. Because paternity cannot be determined until after a child's birth, the divorce process is delayed for the remaining length of the pregnancy.
Custody After Divorce
If the husband is not the father of the child, he is under no obligation to pay child support in Missouri. He also has no right to custody of the child if the divorce is finalized immediately after birth. However, if the husband is the father, he has a right to child custody after the divorce and is responsible for the well-being of the child. Missouri courts may include child support hearings in divorce proceedings, or they may have a separate hearing for child custody and child support, depending upon the situation. In Missouri, child custody and child support payments are determined based on the best interests of the children. More information can be found at the Missouri Department of Social Services website.