Is there an advantage to being the first to file for divorce?

Schreier HousewirthUncertainty and confusion prevails when your marriage begins to unravel.  Emotions swing from one extreme the other and there are always more questions than answers.

That initial consultation with a divorce lawyer is a critical first step.  You have done more than just think about the situation, you’ve taken action.  One of the first questions I get from my divorce clients is, ‘should I be the one to file for divorce first, or just wait for my spouse to file?’

My initial answer to this question is that there is no inherent advantage to being the first to file for divorce.  However, as is the case with all of family law, there are exceptions to the rule.

Simply filing for divorce first doesn’t make you good and your spouse bad, and it won’t affect your standing with a family court judge.  You have to remember that thousands of cases pass through Tarrant County family law courts each year and judges are more concerned with the equities of your case rather than who filed for divorce first.

Also, if you have any hope of saving your marriage, don’t file; getting divorce papers tends to quell talk of reconciliation!

But here’s the caveat:  make sure your spouse can’t hurt you.  By that, I mean you should monitor your bank account balance on an hourly basis, or better yet, establish your own bank account and direct-deposit your paycheck into that account.  Also, you can withdraw from accounts and hold the funds “in trust” if you have concerns you spouse will abscond with those funds.  Sometimes, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission!

Also, watch those credit card balances.  an angry spouse can saddle both of you with unnecessary debt at a time when your spending should be at a minimum.

As I said earlier, there are reasons to file for divorce before your spouse.  Consider these few examples:

1.  You don’t want any surprises.  By this, I mean you can dictate what happens and when it happens, reducing your chances of being caught off-guard.  You can do some “pre-planning” and then protect both your assets and your children by obtaining a temporary restraining order  to preserve the status quo prior to your initial court date.

2.  You have a concern that your spouse is going to sell or otherwise dissipate community assets.  A  temporary restraining order can put the brakes on attempts to reduce the value of the community estate.

3.  Your spouse has moved from the home and is failing to support you and your children.  In this case, you’ll need a temporary orders hearing in divorce court to protect your rights.

4.  You are concerned that your spouse is going to leave with the children, unenroll them from school, or deny you contact with them.  Again, if your children’s welfare is in the balance, then file first.

As you can see there is much to consider, and your divorce case is unique.  We are a Tarrant County divorce firm dedicated exclusively to the practice of family law.  For over 25 years, we’ve been the trusted divorce lawyers relied upon by clients for sound advice in uncertain times.    Contact us to learn which approach to divorce is best for you.