When it comes to divorce proceedings, you will officially be treated the same whether you are the petitioner (the person who originally filed for divorce) or the respondent (the person who receives the petition). While this is technically true, there are still a number of advantages, and a few key disadvantages, associated with filing first. If you considering a divorce and you are unsure of whether to file first or not, take a look at the following list to determine what the best move for yourself would be.
Advantages of Filing First
- Damage control: If you fear a crisis, such as your spouse taking your children, claiming property that is not theirs, or abandoning you, then filing for divorce first can help manage the situation. A Temporary Orders Hearing, which you can request when you file for divorce, can stipulate how you and your spouse behave during the divorce proceedings before long-term arrangements can be made. The Temporary Orders can include orders about residency, bills, spousal support, child visitation, child custody, and property.
- Logistical Power: If you are the one to file, you have a significant advantage in terms of scheduling and timing. You can discuss your situation and make preparations with a lawyer before you even file. You can wait until you are financially and emotionally ready before you file. Additionally, as the petitioner, you get the power to schedule hearings at times that work best for you.
- Set the Tone: This advantage is not permanent, because you cannot control what your spouse does. However, whether you file a fault or no-fault divorce can impact how your divorce proceedings play out. Filing a no-fault divorce may encourage your spouse not to contest your claim, which can help lead to an amicable divorce. Of course, your spouse can change the divorce type in their response, but by filing first, you can lower (or raise, if that’s your prerogative) tensions.
- Speak First in Court: In the rare event that your divorce makes it to court, the petitioner always speaks first. This means that you get to tell your side of the story first, which can help sway the judge in your favor.
Disadvantages of Filing First
- Higher Fees: The petitioner is required to pay the filing fee, which is a rather hefty $300, approximately. Meanwhile, the fee for filing a response is much lower, a mere $40, approximately. This fee can sometimes make it financially impossible to be the first one to file for divorce.
- Speak First in Court: Confusingly, speaking first in court is both an advantage and a disadvantage. While being the first one to share your side of the story can be good, it can be equally good to be able to hear what your spouse has to say and respond to it.
Clearly, whether or not it is best to file for divorce first depends largely on your particular situation. However, even if you determine that you should file first but your spouse beats you to it, it is not the end of the world. With the help of an experienced divorce attorney, the advantages associated with filing first more or less become negligible.
If you are considering filing for divorce in Texas, or if your spouse has already served a divorce petition to you, then you should contact the San Antonio divorce lawyers at Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P.. We know that divorce, no matter how amicable, is a sad, stressful, and overall unpleasant experience. We have dedicated our careers to making this process go as smoothly and painlessly as possible for you. We have the knowledge and experience needed to effectively negotiate any dispute regarding property division, child visitation and custody, and spousal support. To learn more about how we can help you through this trying time, give us a call at (210) 349-9933 today.