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Does it make a difference who files for divorce first?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2024 | Divorce |

Many people consider divorce to be one of the most challenging experiences, both emotionally and logistically. In fact, a study from the National Library of Medicine finds that those who go through divorce are 2.5 to 9.4 times more likely to suffer from depression.

Even if the split is not contentious, each party seeks a favorable outcome regarding property division, spousal support and child custody. Therefore, when it comes to filing for separation, one may wonder if there is any advantage to doing so before the other spouse.

Advantages of being the petitioner

The petitioner is the one who starts the divorce process by filing the paperwork with the court, while the other party becomes the respondent. As a petitioner, a person might gain some advantages in the proceedings.

First, the petitioner could potentially set the initial tone of the divorce. Choosing the timing of filing can give an advantage in preparing for the process. The petitioner may have additional time to gather all the necessary documents and prepare financial disclosures. This can aid with organization and presenting a stronger case in court.

Also, filing first allows the petitioner to choose the venue. If spouses are living in two different cities, parishes or states, the petitioner can file in the preferred jurisdiction as long as the individual meets residency requirements. The jurisdiction could also play an essential role in the divorce proceedings because different areas have different laws and procedures that could favor one side over the other.

Possible disadvantages of filing first

One main disadvantage of filing first is that the other party may feel blindsided or betrayed if the filing happens without much warning. This could result in anger, frustration and resentment, leading to increased hostility during the divorce proceedings.

If there is a possibility of physical or emotional abuse in response to a sudden divorce filing, the petitioner likely needs to prepare to protect themself. The person has to arrange finances and living arrangements in a way that does not violate laws or make it appear that the individual is hiding or wasting assets.

Filing first or being the respondent in a Louisiana divorce does not guarantee a favorable outcome for either party as the court attempts to make a fair and impartial decision. However, in some situations, it may be advantageous for an individual to be the petitioner in a divorce.