Divorce is a complicated and touchy subject for many people. Some believe that divorce should not be allowed, while other people think getting a divorce means that you are a failure. The truth of the matter, however, is that divorce is simply one of the tools that we use to manage our interpersonal relationships.
When a marriage goes sour, couples therapy often isn’t enough to fix the problems. Frequently, the only real option is for each person to go their separate ways. But since marriage is a legal process, it requires a legal process to be able to separate that bond.
Somebody is going to have to file for divorce first, either you or your spouse. So to determine whether it is better to act first, we need to consider whether there are any pros and cons to filing for divorce first. As we’ll see, there are several of each. We’ll explore these in-depth, as well as signs that it may be time to file for divorce so that you can decide on the best course of action for you.
What are the Pros of Filing for Divorce First?
There are quite a few reasons why you may want to file for divorce first. To begin with, filing for divorce will give you more control over the proceedings. But perhaps the most common reason for somebody to file for divorce first is simply to get the proceedings moving. They are ready to move on with their lives to whatever chapter is next, so they file for divorce to get the ball moving.
Pros of filing for divorce first include the following:
- You have more control over the divorce proceedings. For example, you will be able to pick the county or even the state where the divorce takes place, though only if you reside equally in multiple states. Different jurisdictions approach divorce differently, so this choice can be powerfully beneficial.
- Being the first to file means that you have more time to prepare. When your partner files for divorce suddenly, you are left scrambling to find legal representation, gather the appropriate documents, and all the rest. Filing first eliminates this mad scramble since you have plenty of time to prepare ahead of time.
- In Arizona, and many other states, the individual that files for divorce first is also the one that speaks first at the trial. This means that you have a chance to tell your story, highlight points you find important, and get your way of thinking in front of the judge before your ex can.
- In Arizona, the person that files for divorce first is also the last one to speak. They get to speak first, then the other party speaks, then the first party gets to offer a rebuttal. This means that not only does filing for divorce first let you get the first word, but it also lets you get the last word, too.
- When you file for divorce, the court issues a Preliminary Injunction. This prevents either spouse from wasting or hiding community property. As the person that files first, it would be served to your ex. This helps to protect your assets and prevent further debts since any debts your ex-spouse gained since being served the divorce papers would be theirs alone.
- Again, the most common reason to file for divorce first is to get relief. Relief from a marriage that was falling apart or relief from an abusive spouse. In the latter case, it can also mean peace of mind knowing that your children aren’t exposed to further harm.
What are the Cons of Filing for Divorce First?
There are certainly more advantages to filing for divorce than there are disadvantages. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its own drawbacks. While the drawbacks certainly don’t outweigh the advantages, they should be considered thoroughly before moving forward to file for divorce first.
Drawbacks of filing for divorce first include the following:
- When you file for divorce first, most places will require you to include a list of desires or demands. This may not be a big deal to many people, but it can often become a point of contention. Say you want a certain asset, but your ex also wants that asset. By filing first, you inform them of your desire for that asset, and this gives them time to formulate an argument or plan to get it themselves.
- Filing first typically means you’ll spend more money. For one, you will have been working with an attorney ahead of filing, and that costs extra money. For another, there is the cost of the filing fee itself.
- By filing first, you also make it clear that the marriage is being dissolved. This is likely not an issue if you’re in an abusive relationship. But if you are simply in a rocky relationship, this may prevent any chance of reconciling in the future.
When Should You File for Divorce?
This is a hard question to answer. You should not file for divorce before you are ready, but how can you tell it is time? The choice to bring a relationship to an end is a very personal choice, and we would never want to step on your toes by giving a definitive answer. Instead, we offer the following list of signs that it may be time to file for divorce so you can decide for yourself:
- Marriage counseling has failed.
- You and your partner are heading in different directions that do not work together.
- There is a lack of emotional or physical intimacy.
- Communication has failed.
- You and your partner have grown into different people and no longer connect in the same way.
- The marriage makes you feel suffocated.
- You and your partner cannot compromise.
- It no longer seems worth the effort to try to patch things up.
- You’re more like roommates than romantic partners.
When Should I Approach an Attorney?
If you are considering filing for divorce first, you will want to contact an experienced divorce attorney. They will be able to help you through the legalities and prepare you for what to expect. They will also be your closest ally when it comes to divorce proceedings, and it’s always good to have somebody you can trust on your side.