20 Jul Does it Make a Difference Which Spouse Files for Divorce First?
So you and your spouse have had a difficult conversation and decided to end your marriage. Whatever the reason, you now have the divorce process ahead of you.
The first step is filing for divorce. Without that, the proceedings cannot begin. The state of Texas does not have a legal separation, so filing for a divorce is the only thing you can do next.
You might be curious as to whether it matters who files for divorce first. We have answers for you – outlining both the advantages and disadvantages of being the spouse to take that initial step. Let’s discuss it below.
The most important thing to note is that whether you file for divorce or are the spouse that is served papers and must respond, you don’t lose any rights. You still have the right to assert your rights and defenses. Rights and defenses include child custody, child support, division of property, terms of the divorce, and contesting the grounds to divorce.
The two main advantages to filing first for divorce are psychological and procedural.
Psychologically, it might benefit you to file that way so you can begin the dissolution process. If you wait for your spouse to file, you might not be able to trust that they are going to file. It may feel like you are being forced to stay in a marriage that is over. Filing first can give you that sense of peace and a little bit of control over the situation. You are taking matters into your own hands.
Procedurally, the person who files first gets to testify first. Additionally, you get to present evidence first in family court. Your side of the story is the first one that the judge hears. If you file first you also have the ability to request the hearings on any temporary order hearings and on resolving each part of the case. This can help dictate the speed of the proceedings and gives you a bit of a say in that. If you need to file any temporary orders of support or protection, you can get that done first.
Filing first also gives you more time to review assets and figure out what is marital and separate. Your spouse, upon receiving papers, will have limited time to respond. Finally, filing first can be helpful for you geographically if you and your spouse live in different counties. If you file first in your county, the case will be held there which is more convenient for you. It might also help in having a judge local to you.
The two main disadvantages to filing are procedurally and financially.
Above, we discussed how filing lets you testify and present evidence first. This can be seen as an advantage as well as a disadvantage. The person who presents their case second gives the final words before decisions are made. Do you want to be heard first or be the final speaker? This is a strategic choice that you will need to consider. Take into account the circumstances surrounding your split and the judge hearing the case. This is where a divorce attorney can come into play. They are generally familiar with the judge and will know their ruling tendencies.
The second disadvantage is cost. When you file first, you need to pay the filing and initial fees. This can be a few hundred dollars and doesn’t include any attorney costs.
You don’t need an attorney to file for divorce, but it is a good idea to consult one. A family law attorney will make sure you are filing correctly and can prepare everything on your behalf. Getting a divorce lawyer ensures you have an advocate from the beginning to the end. If you are in the Dallas Fort Worth and surrounding communities, contact Navarrette Bowen P.C. today for your free, confidential consultation.