Most people know when the end of a marriage is coming. During the breakdown of a marriage, both partners may be waiting for the other to finally end the relationship. When a marriage is unsalvageable and the parties are considering a divorce, is there a legal or financial advantage to filing first?
Divorce causes substantial upheaval in a family’s finances. Couples who have been together for a long time may share access to bank accounts or credit cards, which either partner could empty at any time.
By deciding to file for divorce first, a spouse can get ready for the financial consequences of the divorce. For example, the spouse will need to make sure that he or she has money to pay an attorney, and can survive on their own if the other spouse temporarily cuts off access to joint accounts. When you know the divorce is coming, you can make sure you are prepared.
In addition, it is often easier to make copies of important financial documents and records while the marriage is still intact. This is especially important if your spouse is secretive about money; if you know you are planning to file for divorce, making copies of your household financial records will go a long way in proving your case for child support or spousal support.
Legally, the spouse who files for divorce first has more options about the direction of the case. First, the filing spouse gets to choose the location of the divorce case. For example, if a couple split up prior to the divorce and one spouse now lives in Oregon, the spouse that files first will have the option of filing the case in either Oregon or Washington.
Second, the spouse that files will have the opportunity to present evidence to the court first. This could be good or bad, depending on your attorney’s strategy. By presenting arguments first, a petitioner may be able to shape the judge’s opinion, but could also give up any element of surprise about the direction of the case.
Finally, the person who filed the divorce always has the option to withdraw the petition. If you filed first but no longer wish to pursue the case, you have the ability to stop it. If, however, your spouse filed first, then you will have rely on him or her to withdraw the divorce petition.
When a divorce is imminent, filing first may give parents the opportunity to seek an order from the court preserving the family’s status quo for the benefit of the children. As part of the initial divorce petition, a spouse can ask the judge to order that the living arrangements for the children and access to joint accounts remains unchanged, so that the family’s way of life is as undisturbed as possible. This may prevent a former spouse from moving away with the children or emptying out bank accounts.
In general, there are some slight advantages to filing first in a divorce case. If you are prepared for the divorce, you will be able to deal with your obligations in a more efficient way than if you were surprised by the filing. Whether you file first or second, the outcome of your divorce case should not be affected. An experienced family law attorney, like those at Pacific Northwest Family Law PLLC, can represent your interests regardless of whether you are the petitioner or the respondent.
At Pacific Northwest Family Law, our goal is to help you put the past behind you by negotiating a divorce agreement that fits your needs. We will work with your former spouse on your behalf, so that you can focus on creating a new and better life.