by Robin Roshkind, Esquire, West Palm Beach, Florida
Clients who come in to see me for a divorce consultation often ask if there is any advantage to filing for divorce first and before their spouses do. As far as substantive facts and law, there is no advantage or disadvantage as to whether you are the petitioner, asking for the court to grant a divorce, or the respondent, the spouse who is served with the petition and has to respond.
However, strategically, there is an advantage to being the petitioner and filing for the divorce first. In terms of going to trial, if you are the petitioner, you get to present your case to the judge first. You make the first impressions on the judge. You get to present the facts of the marriage from your perspective first. You make opening statements and closing arguments first.
The disadvantage of filing for divorce first, is you have to pay the filing fee to the court. You have to pay to have the other spouse served with your petition.
Often times, there is a “race to the courthouse” when spouses live in two different states. Here it would matter who files first because of convenience. For example, if the parties have been separated, and Husband lives in Connecticut and the Wife lives in Florida, and they own a home in each state, whoever gets to file first generally will have the divorce take place in their state. There are extenuating circumstances and time frames, but generally whoever filed first will prevail with having the divorce proceedings in their jurisdiction.