Filing for Divorce with an Infant: What You Need to Know

Filing for Divorce with an Infant: What You Need to Know

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Divorce is a difficult experience for most people and is especially tense when you have small children involved. According to divorce data in California, 18.4% of men and 37.7% of women with children under the age of 18 dissolved their marriages in 2021. On a national scale, 37.6% of all marriages in the United States end with divorce, leaving 21% of children without a father figure. 

Ending your marriage normally creates emotional, financial, and legal challenges, forcing you to navigate through custody and child support issues. When your child is an infant, the divorce process can be much more complex and may influence divorce proceedings. 

What Does the Process of Divorce Work with an Infant?

If you are planning to file for a divorce with an infant in question, you need to thoroughly understand the steps involved in the entire process. Here’s what to expect:

Filing for Divorce

Filing for divorce is the first step that kick-starts the dissolution of your marriage. In certain states, you must be separated for a specific period before moving on to the divorce, but this is not a requirement everywhere. Make sure to study your local laws and stay on top of the legal requirements. 

You normally have to file for divorce in a court in the county where you and/or your partner currently live. States also have specific residency requirements, so ensure you reside locally long enough before submitting the court forms. “Even if a spouse meets a state’s residency requirement to file for divorce, the courts might not have the authority to address child custody, parenting time, and visitation. Only a child’s home state may make rulings on these issues,” notedivorce attorneys at Fernandez & Karney, “A child’s home state is where a child lives with a parental figure for at least the last six months or since birth if the child is an infant.”

The forms you submit will largely depend on your state’s requirements. Generally, more documents, such as forms relating to child support and parenting plans, are required when you get divorced with infants involved. 

Petitioning for Emergency Orders

The divorce process can be time-consuming. Sometimes, you simply cannot wait that long to address your issues. If that is the case, you may be able to request an emergency order or a temporary hearing. You may need to petition for this if:

  • You or your baby are at risk of abusive treatment by your spouse
  • There is a disagreement regarding who should have access to the infant while the divorce is finalized 
  • There is an altercation over child support 
  • There is a disagreement over the primary living situation 

Depending on the situation, the court can address all these issues, and there may be a need for a domestic abuse restraining order. 

Making a Divorce Settlement Agreement 

Many issues need to be resolved in a divorce involving an infant, such as child support, child custody, co-parenting, shared decision-making, and more. If you and your partner can reach a clear agreement on such matters, you can create a divorce settlement agreement by yourselves that will serve as a guideline for your divorce judgment. In case of any disagreements, you may have to go to mediation and work out your differences. 

If you are still unable to settle, your case will be taken to court, where you will present the evidence and allow the court to make a final decision. 

Ending the Marriage 

Once you file for the divorce, your partner will be given the divorce papers per the state’s requirements. This could mean paying a process server or a sheriff to send your spouse the divorce papers. Your spouse will then have a specific period to respond, during which they can agree with the facts in your filings, dispute them, or create a counter-argument. 

After the response has been submitted, the court proceedings are scheduled. This might include a trial where you and your partner will present evidence and witnesses to support your desired outcome on child custody, property division, and spousal support. 

On the other hand, the court proceeding may only include a short hearing session that dissolves your marriage in an uncontested divorce. Normally, you will have to attend a court session even if the divorce is uncontested – if there are kids involved. 

How are Child Custody and Child Support Determined?

Child custody is decided depending on thebest interests of the infant. In general, shared custody for infants involves dividing the baby’s time between both parents in an appropriate way for their development. 

If you and your spouse fail to reach a mutual agreement, the court steps in and decides how the child’s custody should be divided. Factors such as who has served as the primary caregiver and the quality of the environment each parent can offer plays a huge role in helping the court make its final decision. 

Child support is decided depending on the earnings of both parents and how they share the child’s custody. Most states have a predetermined formula for calculating child support, and going astray from these guidelines will require you to justify your actions in court.

Should I Hire Legal Help?

Navigating the divorce process can be complex, especially if you are taking care of an infant. If your spouse is giving you a hard time in terms of child custody or spousal or child support, it is best to see a divorce lawyer who can guide you regarding what to do. Experienced divorce attorneys can take most of the weight off your shoulders, allowing you to better care for your baby while they work on filing paperwork and coordinating with the court system. 

Starting the Divorce Process

Filing for divorce with an infant in question can be challenging. The well-being and best interests of the child must always be the primary focus during this difficult time. It is imperative for parents to communicate effectively, seek professional guidance, and maintain a supportive co-parenting relationship for their infant. 

While the process may be burdened by adjustments, it is essential for parents to prioritize the child's needs and work towards creating a positive and loving future for them. By approaching the situation with compassion, understanding, and a commitment to the child's welfare, parents can navigate the complexities of divorce and provide a foundation for the child's healthy growth and development.