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The Moneyist: My son’s wife got pregnant by a registered sex offender, which delayed their divorce. He pays child support for this child. What now?

Dear Quentin,

My son is going through a divorce after 18 years of marriage, and he has a five-year-old son. His wife never held a steady job before or after their baby was born, and she did nothing around the house — except sleep all day. Now she wants a divorce, but she has no money so she wants my son to move out of their family home, and she wants to have full custody of their son.

Their divorce proceedings have rumbled on for a year so far, and my son’s attorney sat on the case all that time. Making matters worse, his wife became pregnant by a married sex offender. Their attorneys stopped the proceedings and said that under Texas law my son will have to wait until the baby is born to get a DNA test to prove that he is not the father.

The baby was born prematurely in hospital, and now their attorneys say that my son has to wait for his wife to recuperate, even though they said that she is responsible for the cost of the DNA test. My son has been paying child support. What’s more, his wife and son, and her new baby, are all on his medical insurance. Why is it that my son has to wait all this time? What can my son do?

Devoted Mother & Reluctant Mother-in-law

Dear Mother,

Here is my layman’s take: These lawyers are doing their due diligence, and your daughter-in-law’s pregnancy and recuperation will obviously complicate the divorce case and drag it out further. Such cases can take six months to a year, or more. Divorce is an extremely expensive and stressful experience, so allowing your daughter-in-law to regain her strength seems humane and fair. 

Previous cases have found that it is improper for a parent to knowingly bring their child into contact with a registered sex offender, if that is the case here. Given that your son and daughter-in-law share a child, her choice of partner should clearly be brought to the attention of your son’s lawyer, and could very likely play a part in any negotiations over custody. The judge will ultimately decide. 

Paternity of this baby must be established before the divorce can be completed. “By law, the husband is the legal father of any child born to the wife during the marriage. This is true even if the husband and wife were separated when the child was born,” according to the Texas Legal Services Center, a nonprofit that helps low-income Texans. (It also has advice on qualifying for free legal aid.)

“Paternity of this baby must be established before the divorce can be completed.”

Exiting a marriage, especially when there are children and property involved, does not come cheap. A typical divorce can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 in Texas. It depends on the amount of money involved, the level of acrimony between the two parties, alimony requests, lawyer/mediator fees, and unforeseen circumstances like the one that you described.

Texas is a community-property state, so everything that was acquired during the marriage is deemed marital/community property, with a few exceptions. Those exceptions can include inheritances, civil settlements resulting from a lawsuit during the marriage, gifts, and certain property purchased with separate funds during the course of the marriage.

In the meantime, encourage your son to keep the lines of communication with his attorney open. I understand that this is a frustrating and drawn-out process, but given the nature of this case, I advise you to trust in your son’s attorney — barring any other red flags — and make sure that the attorney has all of the relevant and critical information with which to argue your son’s case.

Being patient and prudent will help your son in the long run.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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Also read:

‘Am I the world’s biggest fool?’ I married my husband after being together for 25 years. Now he wants a divorce. I’ll be left with nothing. What can I do?

‘Love yourself and protect yourself’: I care for my mother, 90, and husband, 73. He contributes nothing. I work and pay all the bills. What hope do I have?

‘He implied he was financially secure’: My husband was always hesitant about his finances. Now I know why.

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