Does It Matter Who Starts The Divorce

Your marriage is not working and you’re considering a divorce. Should you file for divorce first? Does it matter who starts the divorce? If you ask a family lawyer, the answer will be: yes, it matters who files for divorce first because that spouse can have some benefits which the other spouse may not get.

The spouse who files for divorce is called the petitioner while the non-filing spouse is called the respondent. A petitioner can have the below advantages.

Choice Of Court Location

When you’re filing for divorce first and before your spouse, you have a huge advantage in choosing the court and the court location. So, if a state has laws that can benefit you, you can file a divorce petition in that state.

However, it’s important to note that you can’t file for divorce in any state. Different states have different laws regarding the requirements that you must fulfill to be able to file for divorce. For example, if a state mandates that you must be living or have a house in the state for at least six months, you can’t get a divorce in that state if you have been living there for just one month.

However, if you can fulfill the state laws, you can file for divorce in another state. It can enable you to choose a court and location that is more convenient for you.

Control Over The Divorce Timeline

If you’re filing for divorce first, you will have control over the pace of divorce. That’s because the court proceedings will begin after your filing so you can set the time and pace as you like. On the other hand, once you have filed for divorce and the court orders proceeding dates, the respondent can only obey the orders of the court and can’t change the dates.

You Can Take Time To Prepare

As you’re filing for divorce, you have the opportunity to prepare well before filing the petition. This means you will have more time to comfortably plan the petition with your divorce lawyers and gather the necessary documents and records.

Moreover, you can file for divorce when you’re financially prepared to afford the cost and the time required for the divorce given that the other spouse doesn’t file for divorce before you in that timeframe.

In short, if you’re filing for divorce first, it’s likely that you will be prepared and know which direction to go after the filing of the petition while other the spouse will only be able to plan after receiving the petition.

You Can Request Temporary Orders

The spouse who files for divorce and the spouse who receives the divorce papers both can request temporary orders during a divorce. However, the petition has the opportunity to request temporary order even before notifying the other spouse about the divorce petition. On the other hand, the other spouse (respondent) can request temporary order after responding to the petition.

This can be impactful because, with these temporary orders, you can request the court to limit your spouse’s ability to make changes in marital property and funds. Financial disputes are common in divorces and spouses can hide or change owners of assets before the divorce. Filing for divorce first and requesting temporary orders can help you prevent this. Plus, you can request protection from the spouse or request spousal support.

The Choice Of Divorce Attorney

Another advantage of filing for divorce first is the selection of a divorce attorney. Keep in mind that if one spouse discusses their case with a divorce lawyer, that divorce lawyer can’t offer consultancy or fight the divorce for the other spouse due to a conflict of interest.

However, when you’re filing for divorce, your spouse will not have consulted any divorce lawyer. This means your choices won’t be limited and you can select any attorney that you think is the best for you. On the other hand, your spouse won’t be able to hire attorneys with whom you have discussed your case.


Filing for divorce first does offer some advantages that can help you increase your odds of winning the divorce case. If you’re considering divorce, consult the best divorce lawyers Fairfax VA to begin preparation.

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