Can I get divorced while I am pregnant?

April 8, 2024 | By Julie R. Colton

Recent news headlines have talked about the fact that some states refuse to finalize a pregnant woman’s divorce until after the child is born. The idea behind this concept is that these states want to make sure that all matters, including custody and financial support of the child, are resolved prior to the divorce.

This probably leaves you wondering if pregnant women can get divorced in Pennsylvania.

The short answer is yes.

The Pennsylvania family law system is set up uniquely. It addresses custody and divorce separately.

The law requires that a married couple’s economic claims usually need to be resolved prior to obtaining a divorce. The law does not require that custody be resolved prior to obtaining a divorce. In fact, parents can choose to get a divorce and never have the court address custody of the children.

Yes, you read that right. Two married parents can get divorced and never formally pursue custody. This allows parents the right to have autonomy over how their children are raised, without interference from the courts. If parents can agree on how to raise their children, they can keep their arrangements private. They never have to invite the court into their parenting decisions.

To finalize a divorce, the parties usually are required to finalize all the related economic matters. This means that alimony and equitable distribution, also known as asset division, must be finalized before a divorce is completed. There are other economic claims that can be raised in divorce. If other claims are raised, they must also be resolved prior to the finalization of the divorce.


In the event that a woman is pregnant and wants a divorce, she should ask if bifurcation is an option when she has not yet addressed the economic claims related to the divorce. A bifurcation is an exception that allows the finalization of the divorce prior to the resolution of the economic claims. This occurs in limited circumstances. It breaks the divorce into two parts, one part being the divorce and the other part being the resolution of the economic matters.

Child Support

It should also be noted that child support does not need to be resolved as part of a divorce. Just like custody, child support is separate from divorce proceedings. Child support cannot be addressed by the court until after the child is born. While an obligation for child support begins after the child is born, the mother can request assistance with medical costs associated with the birth of the child. Because child support is separate from divorce, a request for child support should not interfere with finalizing the divorce.

Establishment of Parentage

Another issue that arises when a woman is pregnant during divorce, is the establishment of parentage. In Pennsylvania deciding who the parents of a child are, is not always based on genetics. The first step in establishing legal parentage is to determine if the Presumption of Paternity applies.

The Presumption of Paternity is a legal fiction that presumes that children born or conceived during a marriage is the child of the spouses.

Originally the Presumption was meant to establish a husband as the legal parent, but it has been expanded to include same-sex married couples. The courts determined that the Presumption only applies when its application will protect the marital family unit. Therefore, when the Presumption is analyzed after the parties have separated, the Presumption may not apply.

If you are pregnant and considering divorce, you should consult an Obermayer family law attorney to for assistance in navigating the legal complexities of the divorce. As part of this discussion, you should consider what legal arrangements may be necessary upon the birth of the child.

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.     

About the Authors

Julie Colton - Pittsburgh Family Law Mediation

Julie R. Colton


Pittsburgh Family Law Attorney   Julie focuses her practice on family law matters including divorce, child custody, support, asset division, prenuptial agreements, and international custody. Julie also has experience in family law...

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