Is it Better to File for Divorce First?

woman filing for divorce

It is commonly believed that the spouse who files for divorce first, known as the petitioner, has an advantage over the other spouse. While there is no legal benefit to being the first to file for divorce, there are certain perks that can be found. For legal representation in your divorce, a Shelby County, Tennessee divorce lawyer can help.

Divorce in Tennessee

Tennesee is a mixed state when it comes to divorce. What this means is that it is not a true no-fault state and recognizes both no-fault and fault-based divorces.

A no-fault divorce is one where the marriage no longer functions and one or both parties want a divorce. There is no blame to be had, it simply did not work out. You can file for a no-fault divorce on the grounds of incompatibility, that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or irreconcilable differences.

A fault-based divorce is where one spouse files for divorce as a direct result of the actions and behaviors of the other. Grounds for a fault-based divorce can be adultery, abuse, abandonment, imprisonment, and more.

What Are the Benefits of Filing First?

Whether you are filing for a no-fault or fault-based divorce, there are certain advantages to being the first to file. A judge will always treat both parties equally, so filing first will not automatically make you more favorable for a judge or mean that you will walk away with every single thing you want. However, there are some benefits.

  1. Filing first means that there is no surprise factor. You knew that you were going to file so you had ample time to prepare yourself in every way. Filing for divorce can be an emotional process so giving yourself time to mentally prepare can be influential.
  2. Preparation can also come in the form of documentation and paperwork. During your divorce, you will need proof of income, assets, debts, loan information, etc. You can use the time before you file to ensure you are well-prepared with all relevant documents and information.
  3. When you file first you are able to choose the area that you are filing. You must file in the state where you or your spouse have legal residency. If you file first you can examine the laws and precedents in your state or county to determine where would be most beneficial for you to file.
  4. With the knowledge that the divorce is coming, you can also have time to find the best team for your needs. You can pick out an attorney that you work well with and trust, as well as financial advisors to help appraise your assets.
  5. Because they were the first to file, the petitioner usually presents their side in court first. This does not have any real legal benefit, but it can allow you to better control your narrative. You get to share your side of the situation first and without influence from your spouse’s statement which can be helpful.