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Does it matter who files first in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Sep 26, 2023 | Divorce

When a marriage reaches the point of no return, and divorce becomes inevitable, many questions arise. One of the common questions is whether it matters who files for divorce first.

Many people might assume that the person who files first has a legal or tactical advantage in the proceedings. By exploring this topic fully, it is possible to gain a better understanding of the filing process.

Initiating the process

In a divorce, the spouse who takes the first step by filing the divorce papers is the “petitioner,” while the other spouse is the “respondent.” The choice of who files first often comes down to personal circumstances and motivations.

Perceived advantage

Some individuals believe that filing for divorce first can provide them with certain advantages. These perceived benefits may include:

  • Setting the tone
  • Control over documents
  • Legal strategy

Legal implications

You should understand, though, that the order of filing does not usually have a significant impact on the legal aspects of the divorce. Family courts generally aim for equitable distribution of assets, child custody and spousal support, regardless of who initiated the divorce.

Emotional considerations

Divorce is a deeply emotional process, and who files first can sometimes be more about emotional considerations than legal advantages. The decision to file first can stem from a desire for closure, the need to take control of the situation or even a response to the other spouse’s actions.

Statistics show that 1,042,174 women divorced in 2019, with other studies indicating that women initiate as many as 70% of divorces. Regardless of who initiates the divorce or files the paperwork first, though, there is little to no legal significance on the process to follow.