Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First?

Price Family Law
Denver Family Law Attorney

Is It Better to File for Divorce First in Colorado?

The Pros and Cons of Filing First Are Personal

Deciding to divorce signals a major change in your life. This decision sparks many questions. Divorce is a complex process often complicated by the range of emotions involved. You have a lot on your plate.

Moving forward with divorce triggers a host of issues, including transitioning from two households to one, finances, child support, and custody. Clearly there is a lot to manage. While each divorce situation is unique, one common question that always seems to arise centers around timing.

Are there benefits to filing for divorce first?

The true answer is two-fold.  Legally it doesn’t make a difference:  there is no leg up from the courts if you file before your spouse.  However, strategically, there are both positives and negatives that need to be considered. The timing of the process is critical, and traveling this road with the guidance of seasoned and reputable divorce attorneys is incredibly valuable.  Not only can they answer your questions, but they can also help you navigate the challenging road ahead.

The steps you take today help draft the blueprint for your future. While divorce signals an end to your marriage, it is also the beginning of your new life, an exciting time.

Considering a divorce? Below are some of the pluses and minuses of being the first to file. For more specific information regarding the best path for you, reach out to a Denver divorce lawyer.

Why Filing First May Be a Wise Decision

Leverage What You Can

Winning isn’t always a function of being first, but sometimes being first can put you in a more favorable position. This can be true when filing for divorce.

Entering into this new phase can be angst-ridden. Your life as you know it is about to undergo considerable change.  In times like this, controlling what you can is very valuable, and filing first may give you a head start in the process.

Your divorce attorneys will help you complete and submit all necessary paperwork and provide your spouse with formal notification of your intentions. Below are some of the advantages filing first for divorce in Colorado may provide.

Seven Strategic Benefits of Filing for Divorce First in Colorado

Take Advantage of Time

Let’s face it, divorce is difficult; in many cases, it is filled with animosity. When you file first, you have the opportunity to carefully review your current situation, including your financial position.

Additionally, there are a myriad of documents that need to be considered as the divorce process gets underway. The list of “important papers” includes, but is not limited to:

  • Financial statements from your bank
  • Investment documentation
  • Mortgage statements
  • Household bills
  • Insurance policies
  • Proof of ownership (titles to house, automobiles, etc.).

Keeping this information private and secure is important. Ask your Colorado divorce attorney how best to do this.

Finally, when you file first, you start the clock on the process.  Once you serve your soon-to-be ex with a copy of your petition to divorce, they will have a specified amount of time to respond (this timing varies, depending on whether they live in Colorado or elsewhere).  This time constraint can prove to be a benefit to you, as your ex will have less time to build their case.

Manage the Process

In addition to limiting your spouse’s time to plan their case, filing first allows you to coordinate the timing of your divorce. Life is filled with events and commitments. Filing allows you to control the big picture. Perhaps it is better for your family’s schedule to manage hearings and meetings during the school year when kids have pre-planned activities and responsibilities. Or maybe you have a job with a very specific “busy season” (like an accountant during tax time) and you would like to avoid that time of the year because your calendar is simply filled.

Be Prepared

If you know your marriage is ending, being prepared is critical. Your financial position may change considerably — and if your spouse controls the money, you may find yourself in financial need. An experienced divorce attorney can advise you on what you should and should not do in order to be ready for the future.

Select the Location

Location may make a difference! Colorado law requires that you be a resident of the state for at least 90 days and that you file for divorce in the county in which you reside. That said, many divorcing couples have multiple homes, or may not even live together.

If you are the first to file for divorce, you control where to file.

Your divorce attorney can help you to determine the location that is best for your specific circumstances.

Attorney Choice

Of course, whether you file first or not, you do get to pick the professional with whom you will work. However, if your spouse files before you and engages your “first choice,” you will have to move to an attorney lower on your list. You definitely want to have your own divorce lawyer, one who will look out for you and your future and protect your best interests.

Present Your Case First

Of course, you would like to settle your divorce amicably, ideally through the negotiation process. Quite simply, it is easier for everyone involved. But divorce is emotional, and the circumstances of each case are unique. In many instances, agreement on all issues isn’t possible and your divorce will go to trial. At this point, a judge would oversee the proceedings and make all legal determinations. If you file first, your lawyer will present your case first.

This places your ex in the position of responding to your statements, resulting in reactive as opposed to proactive behavior. In many instances, this puts them at a disadvantage. Speak with your Colorado divorce attorney to ascertain whether or not this is important in your situation.

Identify Resources

Divorce can be traumatic, both for you and for your minor children. In preparation for what may become emotionally overwhelming, it may be in your best interests to identify certain resources ahead of time. It can take time to select professionals such as therapists. Personality and the right fit are important factors to consider, and consultations are critical. Or perhaps meeting with a financial advisor would be in your best interests. Understanding how to achieve your future financial goals based on your current financial position can be critical as you move forward as a single person and negotiate a divorce settlement.

Appreciate the Ramifications of Your Actions

When you file first, the information and direction from your divorce attorney can prove to be especially valuable. If you are considering a divorce, you are likely frustrated with your spouse and his or her behaviors. It is natural to want to vent, a process that can help relieve stress. Today, many of us share our thoughts and feelings on social media or even in emails and text messages to friends. Your attorney can explain the impact actions like this can have and direct you on how best to protect yourself as the divorce proceeds.

This valuable information can help you reframe your communication processes before the divorce and avoid costly errors.

Understanding Both Sides – Disadvantages to Filing First for Divorce in Colorado

While there is no benefit with regard to the court system for filing first for divorce in Colorado, clearly there are strategic reasons to do so. That said, every action has both pros and cons, and understanding both is important to making your decision.

What one person considers a benefit may be meaningless to another, but certain disadvantages may be critical to consider.

Greater Costs

Filing for divorce comes with costs and fees.  The individual who files first may be responsible for more of these than their soon-to-be ex.  While this may not be a concern for some people, for others money is a very real issue and all expenses must be managed and controlled carefully.

Increased Responsibility

While having control over the process is important, it also comes with intense responsibility.  As the individual who files first, you would be responsible for presenting all the important details, including proposals regarding child custody and support and even division of property. Mistakes in the process can be costly.

Choose Your Colorado Divorce Attorney

Price Family Law Can Help Determine What’s Best for You

Does it matter who files for divorce first? The answer to this frequently asked question is specific to the situation.

What is right for one person, could be inappropriate for another.

As stated, there are pluses and minuses to filing first, but the best response depends upon the specific details that are unique to your relationship and your case.

If you are considering a divorce, contacting an experienced and knowledgeable attorney should be your first course of action. Divorce law in Colorado can be confusing, and managing the process which is fraught with paperwork and dependent on specific timelines can quickly become overwhelming.

Contact Us Today

At Price Family Law, our team is experienced in managing divorce cases in Denver and the surrounding areas. We are well-versed in Colorado law and provide our clients with top-notch legal service.

Additionally, we have a reputation for the way in which we work. Divorce is a traumatic event, and the entire process can be emotionally draining. Our attorneys understand and appreciate the stress you are under and are well-known for the empathy they bring to each and every case. No question is too small or too silly — we encourage our clients to reach out to us whenever they need an answer or advice.

Further, we recognize that while similarities may exist from case to case, your situation is unique to your relationship and family. There are always differences, and sometimes the smallest things can have the biggest impact. Thus, we listen actively, work tirelessly, and provide you with the same level of service we would to members of our own family.

Are you wondering if you should file for divorce first? Contact us today at 720-615-1750 and schedule a free consultation.

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    Attorney Trista Price

    Trista McElhaney Price is a founding partner at Price Family Law, LLC. She specializes in high-asset divorce cases and legal matters involving complex business and financial issues as well as complex custody matters involving domestic violence, substance abuse issues, and mental health issues. Read Full Bio.