It is an infrequent occurrence that a woman who is pregnant goes through a divorce. Pregnancy is a stressful time, to begin with. Adding onto that the negative stresses of a divorce and you have a tough situation no matter how strong-minded you are. There are probably some significant issues going on in your personal life, to say the least, for a divorce to start while you are pregnant. A divorce can take anywhere from 60 days to one year to complete in some cases so the odds are decent that if you are pregnant at the start of a case you will have your baby before the case is all said and done. 

There’s not anything wrong with that, however. While a divorce can be filed when you are pregnant it cannot be completed until after the baby is born. If your husband is your child’s biological father, then orders for custody and child support must be included in the final decree of divorce. Until your child is born these orders cannot be included, however. 

On the other hand, if your husband is not the child’s biological father then a paternity test must be completed to establish who the biological father of your child is. There is no way for paternity to be established until your child is born. 

Establishing paternity when your husband is not the biological father to your child

There are two ways for you to establish the paternity of your child when your husband is not the biological father. The first is by voluntary acknowledgment and a denial of paternity. This occurs when you and the child’s father both agree to sign an acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) which states that the man in question is your child’s biological father. At the same time, your husband would need to sign a denial of paternity form which states that he is not the child’s biological father. These two forms work in tandem with one another. 

Once both the acknowledgment of paternity and denial of paternity is completed and filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit in Austin your child’s biological father would become his or her legal father. This means that he would have all of the rights and duties that come with legal fatherhood and conservatorship. Your husband’s rights and duties as a parent would end. There is a legal presumption in Texas that if you have a baby while you are married your husband is the child’s father. 

The second way that you can establish paternity when your husband is not the biological father to the child is by court order. Your husband, you, and your child’s biological father can file a paternity case to ask for a paternity order. The judge in your case may order genetic testing like the kind we described earlier in today’s blog post. As soon as the judge signs the paternity order, which is known as an Order Adjudicating Parentage, your child’s biological father becomes the child’s legal father and has the rights and duties of a parent. Likewise, your husband’s rights and duties as a parent come to an end. 

What many people do not know heading into a paternity case is that the order itself can and likely will contain language on subjects beyond conferring paternity rights upon a man other than your spouse. Examples of other orders that are very likely to be contained in your paternity order include child custody, visitation, possession, and child support. It is always a good idea to consider whether you (as the legal father to a child) may benefit from the advice of an experienced family law attorney during a case like this. 

A genetic test can determine that you are a child’s biological father. Your child’s mother may agree to your paternity and her husband could sign a denial of paternity or otherwise participate in a paternity suit. However, when it comes to making sure that you could play a role in the life of your child that is where having an experienced family law attorney by your side can come in handy. Do not leave it to chance. A free-of-charge consultation with one of the experienced family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can be had at no cost to you and can make a huge difference in your life and that of your child. 

Where can you access Acknowledgment of Paternity and Denial of Paternity forms? 

All this talk about the acknowledgment of paternity forms and denial of paternity forms may leave you wondering where to get these documents. In most cases, once your baby is born a nurse or other staff member at the hospital will give these to you to complete while you are recovering after the birth of the baby. There are spaces on the form to complete your information and for your child’s father to complete his information as well if he is there with you. Importantly, you can fill out the section if your husband is not the biological father to the child. This form will be necessary for your divorce, as well. Once completed you should contact the Texas Vital Statistics Unit to obtain a certified copy of the Acknowledgment of Paternity and the Denial of Paternity to be filed along with any paperwork in your divorce. 

If you do not complete the forms at the hospital, they can be completed at various approved locations such as at your local child support office. You can contact the Texas Attorney General’s Office to determine where the closest location is to you and then head there to complete the forms with the child’s father. If the father and/or your husband choose not to participate in this process, then you will likely need to file a petition to determine pregnancy and go about determining parentage through the courts. 

Going to court to get paternity orders

All of the above information is well and good, but it doesn’t help you in the sense that you need an order which states that one man is your child’s father. The only way to get a court document that states this is to go through the legal process of filing a petition to determine paternity. You, your husband, and the child’s biological father can file a paternity case.

Paternity cases can get complicated. If all parties agree that one man is the father and that your husband is not the father, then you probably should have smooth sailing at least as far as determining legal parentage is concerned. However, if the child’s biological father is trying to argue that he is not the dad, or your husband is refusing to participate the case can get more complicated. For this reason, it is a wise idea to have an experienced family law attorney available to assist you during what can end up being a pretty complicated and complex matter. 

Find support from those around you

On the personal side of things, it is going to push your physical and mental limits to go through a divorce while pregnant. Not only is your time going to be taken up by issues related to the divorce, but you will also have limitations in terms of your ability to physically perform certain tasks around the house. What I would recommend to anyone who is going through a typical pregnancy is to seek help from your support structure. This usually includes a spouse or dedicated partner. Because you are probably not in that position during a divorce you should seek help and counsel from those around you like family and friends.

Help with things like preparing meals, cleaning the house, and taking care of any other children that you have is a great place to start. You will probably find that most of these people or excited at the idea of helping you. all it takes is for you to reach out to determine how many people in your circle do care to help you as much as possible. an emotionally difficult time for someone going through a divorce is it great time to also focus on those areas of your life that are most important to you and that will serve your family the best. 

The importance of having a good attorney

If you are going through a divorce while you are pregnant then you need to have an experienced family law attorney by your side. There are many different reasons why having an attorney is important during a divorce. For one, there is a specific process that you need to be able to follow in your divorce case. Not following that process exactly can both delay your case and cost you a great deal of money in the process. It is better to be able to avoid mistakes and get the case done over with period as we mentioned before, it is not possible to get a divorce in Texas while you are pregnant. However, the divorce also doesn’t have to eat up all of your time and puts you in a position where you cannot focus on your health or the well-being of your child. Rather, then it’s a much better idea for you to reach out to an experienced family law attorney and work with them rather than put yourself in a process that you do not understand fully and are liable to make mistakes.

Depending upon your specific circumstances you may also need to consider what type of custody arrangement you would like for your child. For a newborn child that is likely that you would need to be able to act as the primary caregiver for an extended period however, your circumstance may be unique and might require that you think outside the box when figuring out custody, possession, and visitation for your new child.

There may be some great visitation structures and plans that you had not even considered to this point. As a result, when you need creativity in creating solutions for your family then it makes a great deal of sense to work with a person who has been there and done that. An experienced family law attorney is just the type of person you need in your corner. I have seen people work with attorneys to different degrees within family law cases based on the specific circumstances of their case. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all court order and your need for an attorney may be different than another person. 

For example, what if you need a custody order that is considered a developmental need that your baby had from birth? You may be in a position where your child needed more time with you or more time with your co-parent depending upon the specific circumstances. It is always a risk to not have an experienced family law attorney especially when you have issues like educational and medical needs that should be considered. In that case, having an attorney who can understand what you are going through and plan with you for the future is the best of all worlds.

What financial considerations do you need to give? One of the relevant factors to your divorce or any divorce for that matter is our financial costs associated with the divorce. If you are pregnant and are in the process of going through a divorce, then you need to think about future expenses when you cannot rely upon his income. If you are working full time, then this may not be an issue for you. However, if you either have not been working or stopped working because you are pregnant then this becomes a very relevant issue to you in your growing family. Mother, it is more likely that the child will be living with you full time. Your budget will need to change and keep up to date with these circumstances.

It is important for your child that he or she received the care necessary before birth. Prenatal expenses and care sometimes are not fully considered by moms and dads. Keep in mind that if you are on your spouse’s health insurance, he cannot take you off the health insurance during the divorce but if not obligated to keep you on the insurance after the case. You should work with him to get an understanding of how this subject will be handled in what you can do to prepare for the future. Many times, issues like this tend to be saved for the very end of a divorce. I would recommend that you consider them fully well in advance so that there are no issues or surprises that you encounter.

The all-important issue of alimony and child support needs to also be considered. Alimony in Texas is known as contractual alimony or spousal maintenance depending upon if you are the one that negotiates these support payments directly with your spouse or if a judge orders the payments to be made. Whatever situation you find yourself in you need to be aware that spousal maintenance is usually limited to families where two people have been married for more than 10 years. Otherwise, it is only in situations where violence has taken place recently that spousal maintenance can be ordered by a judge.

Costs associated with daycare can be overlooked but shouldn’t be especially if you are heading into uncertain times as far as your future and your finances. A reality of our times is that most single parents must work. This is true even if you are receiving spousal maintenance and child support. You do not want to put yourself in a situation where you are relying on either of those forms of support as a majority or sole form of income. Those things are good to have but unless you can count on your ex-spouse always paying for those items you should get a job that you can support yourself and your child with. 

If you go before a family court judge he or she will ask you if you are working or are in the process of applying for work. A statement that you are not working or that you are waiting for a more favorable time to start looking will not suffice. Many family court judges look at an unwillingness to work as a condition that he or they can base not paying out spousal maintenance.

Going through and looking at past tax returns is a great way to plan for a post-divorce budget. Your monthly expenses will certainly change over time and with the new baby coming but you can look back and track your income as the years have gone by. Any degree of work that you can do before the baby is born will help since your time is going to be stretched thin whenever your child is born.  

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.