Coming to the realization that a marriage is no longer working and seeking legal recourse in the form of a divorce is not a decision that a couple usually reaches easily or quickly. Once you or your partner have decided to officially memorialize this decision and formally file for divorce, you’re likely trying to get the whole process over with as smoothly, quickly, and painlessly as possible. You might assume that it doesn’t really matter who files for divorce first, but rather all that matters is that the papers are filed and the divorce process can get underway. However, the timing of when you file for divorce can actually give one party a strategic advantage over the other, but there are certain pitfalls to being the first to put pen to paper. It’s a decision that should be made while weighing the pros and cons in light of your specific circumstances with the help of an experienced family law attorney.
1. The party to file first has more control over the case. As the plaintiff, the party who files first has the advantage of not only having the first word, but the last. When you file for divorce first, you are able to make your case, your spouse has a chance to respond, and then you have another chance to make your case before the judge makes the final call. If your divorce reaches a judge without a successfully negotiated agreement, you will also have the chance to present your case first. Additionally, should you change your mind, you have until your partner responds to cancel the divorce.
2. The party to file first sets the pace of the divorce. You decide when to file and what time period your spouse has to prepare their response. You can take as long as you need to find the right divorce attorney for you and to prepare the divorce papers, and your spouse has a limited amount of time to respond. You’ll have as much time as you need to gather all the relevant financial records and all the evidence to support your argument. Additionally, you’ll have a chance to open new bank accounts and credit cards, and securing a new place to live before the divorce proceedings begin.
3. The party to file first has the advantage of surprising their partner and using that surprise to their tactical advantage. By filing first and providing a present accounting of your assets and debts at the time of filing, you can also ensure your spouse isn’t going to hide any assets as they won’t have the time to transfer any property to friends, relatives, or secret accounts.
4. The party to file first decides where the divorce will take place. Depending on the circumstances, if you and your spouse live in different states, have recently moved, or have multiple residences across multiple states, you may be eligible to file a divorce in a different state from the one you currently reside in. It’s best practice to discuss your options as to where you can file for divorce with an experienced family law attorney, as the laws can be nuanced. The laws which govern aspects of a divorce such as property distribution, child support, alimony, and marital debts can vary from state to state. Having the power to decide which laws your divorce will be subject to gives you a strategic advantage in the overall outcome.
1. You’re the first to reveal your hand and lose an edge in the element of surprise. By filing first, you must state your demands upfront, and, going into the proceedings, your spouse will know exactly what you’re seeking and can use that strategically to their benefit.
2. The party to file first will incur the additional cost of serving their spouse with divorce papers via a process server. This service isn’t particularly costly, ranging around a hundred dollars, but your spouse won’t need to serve their response, and can simply mail it without the additional cost of having it served.
The experienced team at the Hankey Law Firm understand that the decision to end a marriage isn’t one that is made quickly or lightly. We know that this is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. That’s why it is our mission to provide quality, timely, responsive, and personalized service to best support our clients at this difficult juncture in their lives. Our comprehensive family law practice offers experienced representation for divorces, custody disputes, child support considerations, adoption proceedings, juvenile law matters, paternity disputes, certain probate services, and beyond. You can trust our office to meet any and all of your family law advocacy needs with expertise, sensitivity, and a relentless dedication to fighting for the best outcomes for our clients and their families. We proudly serve Cullman County, Blount County, Winston County, Madison County, Morgan County, and beyond. Contact us today to request a consultation and let us get started advocating for you!