Advantages of Being First to File for Divorce

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Apr 01, 2013 | 0 Comments

Our Birmingham divorce lawyers don't like to think of the separation of a marriage as a

race to the finish line.

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We want to make sure that you've been given a chance to thoroughly consider all your options, weigh all the risks and proceed only at a pace with which you feel comfortable.

That said, there are certain advantages to being the early bird, so to speak.

Namely, if you are the first person to file for the divorce, you may be equipped with certain legal and financial advantages over your soon-to-be-ex and his or her legal team.

The main advantage that being first gives you is the opportunity to prepare.

For starters, if you want to ensure the best possible outcome, you're going to need to acquire the best possible legal team. That's going to require some research, some time and some extra money. Being the first means you have had the opportunity to set aside some savings for this purpose, do the research and make the contacts.

You will also have had the opportunity to secure all relevant legal and financial documents. This can be rather time-consuming. More than just tax returns and bank statements, you will need to track down wills and trusts, retirement account statements, real estate records, insurance policies, vehicle registrations and more. Tracking down all this stuff takes time, and it can be especially tough if you have a spouse who is somewhat secretive about finances.

This is also a good time to put yourself on better financial footing so the transition won't be so difficult. Get a credit card and your name now, as it could be tougher later on.

And also, if you have a chance to collect all relevant information and file first, it may limit your spouse's ability to hide assets later in the process. You might think this is something your spouse would never do, even if you were at each others' throats – but it happens more than you might think.

From a legal standpoint, those who file first have the luxury of basically choosing where they want the case to be heard, as divorces cases are generally decided in the jurisdiction where they are filed. Of course, all courts are supposed to be fair across the board. However, in doing your research and consulting with your lawyer, you might find there could be elements working in your favor depending on the jurisdiction where you file.

It could be especially advantageous in terms of things like temporary custody and/or use of certain community property while the proceedings are pending. That's because the petitioner (the first to file) is typically the party responsible for scheduling hearings to resolve these matters, while the respondent might be given as little as a few days notice on when to be in court.

It may not turn out in your particular case that filing first has no real advantage at all, but for the most part, it's not going to hurt.

What we don't want to see is clients who are blindsided by the news of a divorce, which then leaves them scrambling to pick up the pieces and prepare as best they can. If this is the alternative, it's always better to be ahead of the curve.

If you are contemplating a divorce in Birmingham, contact Birmingham Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

Additional Resources:

What are the financial and legal advantages of being first to file for divorce? March 26, 2013, By Jeff Landers, Forbes Magazine

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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