This may seem scandalous to some, but, take it from a divorce lawyer: pregnancy is no reason to marry. In fact, in most cases, it is one of the worst reasons to marry. Sure, having kids before you are married isn’t exactly optimal.
It’s not the way things are “supposed” to be. And, most religions do tend to frown on that kind of behavior. But, marrying someone simply because you are pregnant does not magically “fix” your situation. A lot of times, it actually makes things worse.
The Shotgun Wedding and Quick Divorce Syndrome
Getting married is easy. Staying married takes work. Even those people who married for the “right” reasons – i.e. they loved each other, shared the same values and goals, and wanted to spend their lives together – get divorced. Those who get married for the “wrong” reasons – i.e. an unplanned pregnancy – have an even tougher time making a go of it. (While I question the statistics that say that 90% of all marriages that were entered into because of pregnancy end in divorce, the bottom line is that it is much more difficult to stay married to someone who doesn’t share your values, dreams, lifestyle, and goals – someone you might never have married if you hadn’t gotten pregnant.)
Ending a Relationship is a Lot Easier than Getting Divorced
Ending any relationship, especially one in which you and your significant other share a child, can be painful. But ending a marriage requires you to go through all of that emotional pain, while trying to navigate the legal system at the same time. Getting divorced is more complicated, more expensive, and more time consuming than simply splitting up.
Of course, you are probably not planning to split up, especially if you and your child’s father were already set to get married when you got pregnant. But having to rush through a wedding and start your marriage with a baby on board is not the best way to start your new life together. Which brings up the next point ….
Marrying Because of Pregnancy Puts a Lot of Stress on a Marriage
As any new parent can testify, having a baby changes everything. Suddenly, you find you don’t have time for, well, just about anything else. Starting a new marriage at the same time as having a new baby is doubly difficult. You don’t have time to build your relationship as spouses before you have to deal with being parents. What’s more, no matter how much you love each other, you will always have that nagging thought in the back of your mind, “Did he marry me because he felt like he ‘had’ to, or did he marry me because he loved me?”
Marriage Ties You Together Financially
Having a baby ties you and your child’s father together as parents regardless of whether you get married or not. The law today does not distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate children the way it did in the past. Even if you never marry, both you and your child’s father will have certain parental rights, such as the right to spend time with your child (visitation) and potentially the right to make decisions for your child (custody).
Each of you will also have certain parental responsibilities, such as the responsibility to support your child, and pay for necessary medical and educational expenses. Getting married does not change those rights and responsibilities. It does, however, dramatically change your financial future.
Once you are married, all of your earnings usually become marital property. Any assets you acquire or debts you incur while you are married will also usually be deemed to be marital. If you and your husband split up, either of you may be able to seek alimony/spousal support from the other. None of these extra financial entanglements exist for unmarried parents.
Marrying Because You are Pregnant Really Puts a Damper on Having a Fairytale Wedding
Ok. I admit it. This is so shallow! But, let’s face it. Most of us dream of floating down the aisle in an elegant white dress while our family and friends watch with unbounded joy and perhaps an occasional tear of happiness. We do not dream of waddling down the aisle with an extended belly leading the way, while our wedding guests smile politely but are secretly wondering how long a marriage like this can possibly last.
That is not to say that you can’t have a beautiful wedding if you happen to be pregnant. But, it will definitely be a much different experience than the wedding you dreamed of having when you were a little girl.
To Marry or Not to Marry?
Life has no guarantees. If you get married just because you are pregnant, you are statistically more likely to get divorced than if you get married without being pregnant. But, statistics never tell the whole story. If you and your child’s father are in love, and you were planning on getting married anyway, maybe you can get married while you’re pregnant and stay married forever.
On the other hand, if you and your child’s father barely know each other, or if that little voice in your head is saying, “Don’t do this!” then getting married while you are pregnant is probably going to end up making your life a whole lot worse.