Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First?

Family Law Attorney Serving Reno, Sparks, and Nearby Western Nevada

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In divorce proceedings, the plaintiff is the party who filed the suit. The defendant is the party who was served with divorce papers. Being the plaintiff or defendant provides no advantage in terms of property division, child custody and support, and other issues that will be settled in your divorce. However, there are certain tactical advantages to filing for divorce first.

Advantages of Filing for Divorce First

Close-up of man's hands, wedding band poignantly removed, signing divorce papersAs the plaintiff, you have a bit more control over timing. You choose when the gears are set in motion, allowing you a bit more time to prepare your case.

Your spouse will have 20 days to respond to the Complaint for the divorce. In that time, he or she will need to:

  • Hire a divorce attorney
  • Collect financial documents
  • Prepare a response

Depending on the complexities of the case, this deadline may be extended.

When you file first, you have no such deadlines. You and your attorney should have all of your ducks in a row before any paperwork is filed, allowing you more time to perform important tasks like double-checking assets to make sure your spouse isn’t hiding something.  

Many divorces are settled through mediation before a trial is needed. There is no benefit to having filed first during the mediation process, but if the case heads to trial, being the first to file for divorce has clear advantages.

As the plaintiff, you get to speak first. The defendant will be allowed to respond to your statement, following which you will be allowed to respond to his or hers. This gives you the last word as well as the first, and two opportunities to speak as opposed to one.

Disadvantages of Filing for Divorce First

The primary disadvantage of filing for divorce first is showing your hand. In the Complaint for the divorce, all of your demands will be listed. This can give your spouse a slight upper hand when it comes to negotiations – particularly in cases where you belatedly realize you did not ask for enough. However, these types of pitfalls can often be avoided by working with an experienced divorce lawyer.

Another slight disadvantage of filing for divorce first is incurring the cost of a process server. While negligible in terms of overall divorce costs, this fee will not be shared by the defendant.

What if I’m Served While Preparing to File for Divorce?

Nothing affecting the results of your case will happen if you are served while preparing to file for divorce. He or she will, however, enjoy the advantages discussed above.

If working with a dedicated divorce attorney, your records will be placed in order while preparing to file. This helps reduce the potential stress and strain of being surprised by divorce papers.

Thomas C. Bradley Can Help

If you are considering divorce in Reno or if you have recently been served with a Complaint, Thomas C. Bradley can help. Call our office at 775-323-5178 to schedule a consultation and learn more.

Located in Reno, Thomas C. Bradley represents clients living in Sparks and surrounding areas in divorce, mediation, and related family law matters.