Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Texas?
If you are considering filing for divorce, you may be questioning whether it is better to file first or wait for your spouse to file. Officially, there is no difference between the petitioner (the person who filed first) and the respondent (the person who responds to the petition). The judge who hears your case will fairly evaluate both sides, regardless of who began the proceedings. That said, there are a few advantages and disadvantages associated with filing first.
Advantages of Filing First
- Set Tone: If you are the one who files for divorce, you largely get to set the tone of your proceedings, by choosing to file a fault or no-fault claim. If you are hoping to resolve things amicably and uncontested, you have greater control over making that happen if you file first. However, this tone is not set in stone, and the respondent has the power to change the type of divorce or contest your initial suit if they so choose.
- Go first in hearings/trial: Though divorces rarely go to court, if yours does, it is advantageous to speak first. The petitioner always gets to present their side of the story first in a courtroom setting, which can impact the opinions of those listening.
- Do Things at Your Convenience: Filing first gives you a lot of power in terms of logistics. You can wait to file until you are financially and emotionally prepared to do so. You can speak with a lawyer and discuss your strategies before starting the proceedings. You also get to schedule hearings for days and times that are convenient for you and your lawyer.
- Take Control in Dire Situations: If you are concerned about your spouse stealing or hiding property, or taking your children and moving away, filing first can help prevent that. When you file first, you can request a Temporary Orders Hearing to set rules regarding how you and your spouse can behave during divorce proceedings, including stipulations about child custody, residency, bills, spousal support, and more.
Disadvantages of Filing First
- Pay filing fee: If you file for divorce first, you are required to pay the filing fee, which is approximately $300. Comparatively, filing a response can be as low as $40.
- Go first in hearings/trial: This may seem paradoxical, but while there are advantages associated with going first in a courtroom setting, there are also disadvantages. Sometimes, it is better to go second so that you can respond to your spouse’s arguments and get the last word in.
At the end of the day, both parties participate equally in a divorce, and you will be able to argue your case regardless of if you file first or not. While there are certainly advantages associated with filing first, there is no need to panic if you are unable to do so.
If you are considering filing for divorce in the state of Texas, or if your spouse has already served a divorce petition to you, contact Holmes, Diggs & Sadler for legal assistance. We are an experienced family law firm based in Houston, and we can help you grapple with all the complexities of a divorce proceeding. We have experience handling all the nitty-gritty details of a divorce, including child custody, child visitation, property division, alimony, and more. Though divorce is never a pleasant experience, we are available to help make this process go as smoothly as possible so that you can move on with your life. To get started, call us today at (713) 802-1777.