Should I File for Divorce First and Will it Matter in California?

file for divorce

If you’re thinking of divorce, you may be hesitant to be the first one to file for divorce. It may be because you aren’t quite sure if divorce is the solution, or it could just be that you’re not sure how to proceed, or you are wondering if it’s good or bad to be the one who files first.

Family law can be complex, so the answer to that question depends on your circumstances. It can matter, but other times it won’t. We’re going to look at the advantages and the disadvantages of being the first to file for divorce and find out when it matters.

Possible Advantages

Sometimes there are benefits to being the first to file for divorce. Things such as how amicable the breakup is, the location of each spouse, each spouse’s income, and their access to funds can determine how beneficial it would be.

Here are some of the benefits of being the first to file for divorce.

  • You choose the county to file in. The Petitioner is the spouse who files for divorce first, and the Petitioner chooses where the divorce will be filed. If you live apart from each other, or if you live far away from your spouse, this can help prevent you from having to deal with matters from a distance or having to travel for proceedings.
  • You control how fast the proceedings move. This is particularly important if the responding spouse (the Respondent) doesn’t file a response within thirty days of being served the Petition. When this happens, the courts are likely to enter a default against them and proceed without them.
  • You’ve had time to plan. If you’re the first to file, you’ve taken your time to research a divorce attorney, get the required paperwork together, and emotionally prepare for the divorce. The Respondent has not. They only have thirty days from the time they are served the petition to research and choose an attorney, provide the necessary paperwork, and file and serve their Response, all while trying to get prepared emotionally.
  • You get to present your case first. If you end up in court, the Petitioner presents their case first. In this case, it could be an advantage or a disadvantage. It can benefit you to have the court hear your side first. However, that gives the Respondent time to adjust their case strategy based on what you have presented to the court.
  • You can protect assets and property. Everyone has heard the divorce horror stories about one spouse taking everything and disappearing. And although it may not happen frequently, it does happen. Filing immediately can allow your attorney to work to protect you and your future. As soon as a Petition for divorce has been served, Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders go into effect to keep both spouses from transferring assets.

Possible Disadvantages

There are also some possible disadvantages of filing for divorce first. Some of these disadvantages are:

  • Reconciling is likely no longer an option. If you’ve had any thoughts about reconciling with your spouse, being the first to file will likely be a firm ending to the marriage.
  • You have to pay the fees. When you file the Divorce Petition you will be responsible for paying the initial filing fee which will cost you about $435. And if you and your spouse can come up with a full marital settlement agreement, the Respondent may end up avoiding paying their own filing fee.
  • Your demands are known. Often, the Petitioner will include a proposal for the division of debts and assets in the Petition. That means the Respondent will know all of your demands.

Do You Still Have Questions? Azemika Law Can Help

Most legal experts believe that there isn’t really a legal advantage to filing for divorce first since California is a no-fault divorce state. If you feel like your marriage is ending, it’s essential to discuss your case with an experienced divorce attorney. Your attorney can help you decide what is in your best interest.

The team at Azemika Law knows how difficult divorce can be. We have helped clients navigate the complexities of divorce for over thirty years. You can trust that our team is well-equipped to provide you with the dedicated legal advocacy that you need.
Contact us today for a consultation.