When marriages begin to fall apart, most spouses know that something is wrong. However, many spouses are hesitant to be the first one to file for divorce. Some are unsure about whether divorce is really the solution, others may wonder if they are being hasty and still others may just not know how to proceed. While people's hesitation to file divorce is understandable, people considering divorce should be aware of the potential benefits that accompany being the first spouse to file for divorce.
Financial benefits of filing for divorce first
Being the first spouse to file divorce means that a person can begin the proceedings at a time when he or she is financially prepared to do so. A person would have had time to collect copies of all important legal documents, such as deeds, bank and investment account statements, wills, life insurance policies, social security cards, titles to property. They will need these papers as part of the property division process, and it may be more difficult to obtain copies after the divorce starts. Also, a person can assess the family finances and determine the extent of their assets and debts, so they will have an accurate idea of what will be divided in the property division.
People filing for divorce first also have the advantage of doing so after they have ensured that they have access to money and credit to meet their needs during the divorce process.
Possible legal benefits of filing first
One of the main legal advantages that a person gains by filing the divorce petition before his or her spouse does is that the filer can request a Standing Order from the court when filing the petition. Such an order prevents either spouse from making changes to beneficiaries on policies such as life insurance or retirement accounts, selling, borrowing against or transferring property, changing bank accounts and other similar financial moves. This can be important if the spouse filing divorce suspects that the other spouse will attempt to hide assets.
The person who files for divorce also chooses the jurisdiction in which they litigate the divorce. In situations where spouses have lived apart from each other for a substantial period of time, possibly great distances from each other, filing the divorce petition first can prevent having to conduct matters related to the divorce far away from where a person lives.
If the matter should go to a hearing, the person who files the petition usually presents his or her case first. This can be a drawback for a spouse if he or she does not wish to reveal his or her strategy to the other spouse. The other spouse then has the opportunity to adjust the presentation of his or her case after seeing the other side.
Talk to a lawyer
Many people become paralyzed by indecision when faced with such a monumental question as whether to file for divorce, or just wait until their spouses file first. This is not a decision that a person should make without gathering all the information possible. Those who feel their marriages are coming to an end should speak with a seasoned divorce attorney who can discuss their specific situations with them and help them decide the best way to move forward.