Divorcing When Pregnant
Last week we looked at how the wild emotional ride of pregnancy can put a strain on a marriage. The physical and chemical changes happening to a woman's body often produces anger, depression, anxiety - and that inevitably all these emotions can be focussed on her partner.
It is quite common for husbands to think they might be best out of the picture.
However being a parent is a lifetime role. It is astonishing to think that you will now be a father until the day you die. Family breakdown has been increasing for generations, and the role of fatherhood not been fully valued.
Yet more recent research is showing that if you do decide to head for the divorce courts, the loss of your role as father could affect your as-yet-unborn child well into their adulthood.
Divorce While Pregnant
The Shared Parenting Bill which became law in 2014 has caused some confusion for parents.
It does not mean that divorced or separated parents have a 50/50 split of time with offspring because that is not always practical or in the child’s best interest.
Baroness Butler-Sloss, who was president of the Family Division of the High Court, says that misunderstandings have been rife.
She says: “The problem about the phrase ‘shared parenting’ is the perception that parents have as to what it really means.
“I’ve heard one father who went into court saying, ‘Once this law is enforced, I will get half of the child’. Well that’s ridiculous. The child has to live in one place, so the duty of the court is to do what is best for the child.
All parents should be sharing their children but that requires parents to be sensible, to co-operate and to look at what is best for the children.
Unfortunately if you divorce while your wife is pregnant this is unlikely, given the emotionally charged situation, to be a cooperative process either now or in the future.
Time with The Baby
The first three years of a child's life are utterly crucial to his or her development. If you compare a newborn human with almost any other mammal it is hard to not reach the conclusion we really are leaving the womb a bit early. Newborn horses, cows and sheep are all up on their feet within minutes of birth. Puppies and Kittens crawl direct to the feeding station. Humans?
Not so much. We are born much more helpless than almost any other creature and we do an awful lot of major development in the first 36 months of life. Most importantly our brain is still developing and we are hardwired to need safety, security and stability in our early years as part of our mental and emotional development.
Babies who dont get that suffer
As a result, some researchers believe that during the early years of development a baby should only stay overnight with the primary carer which is most likely to be the mother. This severely limits the visiting options of the father.
Tension Between You and Your Soon-To-Be-Ex
Dealing with the tension between you and your pregnant wife during and after the divorce process is best for all concerned.
But is almost impossible without help.
There are courses available which can help divorcing parents to reduce conflict between them and to put together detailed co-parenting plans which cater for all concerned.
One such is the University of Minnisota's Parents Forever Education which helps parents learn how to avoid being misunderstood by their ex by using "I" messages rather than "You" messages and by taking ownership of your feelings when talking to your ex rather than blame everything on them - no matter how satisfying that is.
Communicating with your Ex: own your own feelings
Putting Together a Parenting Plan
OnePlusOne Marriage and partner research give useful advice on how to raise a baby after a breakup, including a short course on how run a co-parenting situation that is not only best for the children but can also take a lot of strain off the parents. They show you how to stay calm even when provoked and how to listen as well as talk to your ex.
How Not To Talk to your Ex
Better Ways to Talk To Your Ex
Finally rather than head straight for the courts you can save a lot of emotional and financial pain if you both seek out mediation services first.
Below are links to several articles which explain what mediation can do to help you and your ex through the next few difficult stages.
 Pruett, M., Mcintosh, J., & Kelly, J. (2014). Parental Separation and Overnight Care of Young Children. Family Court Review, 52(2), 240-255.