Making the tough decision to file for divorce can feel overwhelming, but that decision can be even more emotionally taxing when the choice is taken out of your own hands. You may be asking yourself whether it is better for you to file first for a divorce or if you should wait for your spouse to file. In Texas, it does not legally matter who files for divorce first. The person who files first, called the petitioner, does not get any preferential treatment compared to the person responding to the divorce petition, known as the respondent. Judges in Texas must consider both sides of a divorce fairly and equally. Texas is also a community property state, which means each spouse will receive roughly half of the value of the property acquired throughout the time the couple was married. Even though each party in a divorce proceeding is treated equally by the judge, there are some strategic advantages to filing for divorce first in Texas.
Advantages to Filing for Divorce First
1. You Set the Tone for the Divorce Process
As the person who files first, the petitioner gets to have a slight procedural advantage in the divorce. They have the option to attempt to file for an uncontested, agreeable divorce and can start the process off with amicable negotiations. The original divorce petition contains the petitioner’s statement about the reasons, or grounds, for the divorce. The allegations in the petition will be the first information about the case the court gets to see and provide the court with a first impression of the relationship that is ending.
2. You Choose the County Where the Proceedings Will Take Place
If you have been separated from your spouse and they have moved to a different part of Texas or outside the state, you can still bring the proceedings to the county where you live. This will make the process much easier on you with regard to travel necessary for any courtroom proceedings. If you believe the county your spouse lives in would offer some type of advantage to you in the divorce proceedings, you can also choose to file for divorce there. By filing first for divorce, you have the option to decide what venue to select based on what’s best for you and your case.
3. You Have More Time to Prepare with Your Attorney
When filing for divorce first, you have more time to collect information on financial records, property information, communication records, and more your spouse may try to hide from you when they find out you are filing for divorce. You can strategize with your attorney and come up with the best plan of action when going through the divorce process. Property division can be a heated process and your attorney will be able to guide you in finding accurate records of all financial assets that will be required for the divorce proceedings.
4. You Have the First Opportunity to Ask for Temporary Orders
If you file for divorce first, you are able to decide when the court will hear arguments on setting any necessary temporary orders. Sometimes you may be in a situation in which you can no longer trust your spouse with property or money that belongs to the marriage, and filing first can give you some control over those assets. You will be able to petition the court to prevent your spouse from making monetary or business decisions while the divorce is ongoing. This action can prevent them from liquidating assets, transferring property, or attempting to keep assets hidden or “protected” from the divorce process that should be considered community property. As the petitioner, you are also able to file a motion to prevent your spouse from taking your children out of the state.
5. You May Go First at Hearings or Trial
If you end up going to court during your divorce, as the petitioner, you will present your side of the story to the court first. This gives you the opportunity to frame your arguments and the chance to tell your side of the story without having to respond to the opposing side’s arguments. If litigation is expected, your attorney may advise you to file first.
What Do I Do If My Spouse Filed First?
If your spouse has already filed a petition for divorce, do not panic. This should not be seen as a disadvantage in the process. The above are just some benefits to filing first but there is no real significant disadvantage if your spouse files first. The court will evaluate both parties fairly and you will still have the chance to argue your side of the case. This is where having an experienced divorce attorney will be incredibly helpful.
Brazoria County Divorce Attorneys
Terry & Roberts’ Brazoria County divorce attorneys will work with you to ensure you receive your fair share of marital property and assets. When choosing representation, it is crucial to select a lawyer or law firm with extensive knowledge of Texas family law. Our Brazoria County divorce lawyers have extensive experience helping our clients find the best solutions for their families. For clear, caring, and practical legal guidance to enable you to do what’s best for your family, contact us today.