Are There Advantages to Filing for Divorce First?
When something isn’t right with your marriage, you’ve probably known it for some time. Maybe you wonder if divorce is really the answer, and you may not want to take any actions that would seem hasty. While many spouses are hesitant to be the first one to file for divorce, there might be some advantages to doing this.
Divorce in Washington State
Washington is a “no-fault” state when it comes to divorce. This means that you can’t and don’t need to show cause to file for divorce. The only acceptable reason for filing is “irreconcilable differences.” You will need to live in Washington to file for divorce there, and it must be filed in the county of residence for either you or your spouse.
Once either party files for divorce, the courts will either determine or approve of certain items. These include:
- The termination date of the marriage
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
- Any spousal support (alimony)
- Distribution of assets and debts
- Other relevant matters
Legal Benefits of Filing for Divorce First
Filing for divorce first not only gives you a chance to organize in advance, but there are also some legal advantages. The first is that it allows you to establish jurisdiction. Jurisdiction can play a role in the division of property as well as child custody cases. If you and your spouse live in different states or counties, you can choose the jurisdiction that will give you the most benefits.
Other legal benefits of filing for divorce first include:
- You will have more time to find a reputable divorce lawyer and discuss strategy, where your spouse will only have 30 days after receiving the divorce petition to do so.
- You will get first argument if a case goes to trial.
Personal Benefits of Filing for Divorce First
Aside from the legal advantages to filing for divorce first, there are a few personal ones as well. Above everything else, you have the opportunity to deal with a major life change without being surprised by it. This makes dealing with such things as finding another place to live or opening a new bank account more efficient.
If you have children, filing first can help them maintain a level of status quo, which is vital to their well-being. As the initial filer, you can ask the court to maintain the children’s current living arrangements and your access to joint accounts, so their life remains as undisturbed as possible during this transition.
Possible Disadvantages to Filing First
There are just a few potential drawbacks to filing for divorce first, but, depending on your situation, can be negligible. These revolve around strategy and money. For instance, when you are the first party to file, you might have to list your demands in advance. This lets your spouse know what you want up front, and they have time to counter.
Second, you might make it difficult to reconcile if you are the first one to file. If you don’t believe that this is in the cards, this shouldn’t be a deterrent to filing first.
If you’re facing the end of your marriage, you may be waiting around for your spouse to make the first move or otherwise facing indecision about what lies ahead. This is a time to get some sound advice from an experienced Washington state divorce attorney.
The experienced family law attorneys at AB Law can review your specific situation and recommend the best way to move forward that will protect your rights and future.