You’ve made the decision that your marriage is not going to work. You brought up the topic of divorce and hoping to go about this amicably. However, she didn’t respond, or you couldn’t agree to the terms. Your gut is telling you this is going to be a divorce war. Now what?
I’m asked many things as a divorce coach for men, but the one question that seems to always be asked is whether it matters who files first in a divorce case? I’ve seen it countless times when a client regrets not being the Petitioner and finds himself as the Respondent in the family courts. I’m always informing men, the family courts as a Respondent is not a good place for men to be. As a man, the deck is stacked against you in many ways, the first being the biased court system you may find yourself in. Don’t think for a moment if this goes to litigation that your spouse won’t come after you full steam ahead, in fact, you can bank on the fact that she will. Let’s look at the advantages of being the one who files first.
First choice of an attorney: If you are at the point where you’re considering a divorce, acting first allows you to have the first choice of local attorneys. Since an attorney can learn confidential information during a consultation, it’s a conflict of interest for the attorney to speak with you if your spouse has already consulted with them.
Head start: Knowing you are going to file first, gives you a head start on finding and copying documents that will be needed such as bank accounts, credit card statements, titles of ownership, brokerage/retirement accounts, etc. Make sure that you put these documents in a secure location.
Time: As the Petitioner, you will gain some control over the time the proceedings begin. In another word, once you have prepared and are ready to file, “the clock starts” at the time you choose by filing first. This gives you and your attorney a timeline as to when the hearings and discovery requirements will be addressed.
Location: Let’s say you have ties to more than one county or state, this may give you options as to which where you file. The opportunity to file in a particular county could be beneficial depending on the judges in that county or state and whether their divorce laws are either more or less lenient.
First to present & the last word: Should your case go before a judge; your attorney would be first to present your case. Your narrative/story will now set the tone going forward as the Petitioner. As a plaintiff, you have the opportunity to speak first. Your spouse as a defendant has a chance to respond and has only one opportunity to make their arguments. As a plaintiff, you have two: the first and then the opportunity to reply. So, it could be said you get in the last word before a judge makes a final decision.
You just might feel a little better: When divorce turns your life upside down, most people feel a loss of control. Taking control of the situation just may give you the boost of confidence you need to get yourself back and go through this process with confidence. Filing first, also sends the message to your spouse you are taking charge of your life and future.
I recommend before filing for a divorce, always consult with an attorney to ensure this is the correct decision for your case.