Divorce is never an easy choice. Couples may repeatedly try to fix their problems and make their marriage work. But when those efforts are to no avail, divorce may be the only option.
If you have come to the conclusion that ending your marriage is the only option, you might be wondering whether you should be the first to file for a divorce. Although there is no definitive answer, there are potential advantages and disadvantages of being the first to file. Below, we will go over both the pros and cons and discuss whether filing first is a good strategy for you.
To learn more about divorce and whether being the first to file is right for you, we encourage you to reach out to the experienced team of divorce lawyers at Slater & Zurz.
If you need help with an Ohio divorce, dissolution, or legal separation, call (888) 534-4850 today to arrange a no-obligation consultation.
The Advantages of Filing for Divorce First
- Element of Surprise
In many cases, the other spouse does not see the divorce coming. Surprising them with your wishes to divorce can be very unsettling, which may end up giving you an advantage. You have had time to plan, open new bank accounts, apply for your own credit, plan where you will live, plan out visitation schedules, and hire a divorce lawyer – but they have not. They haven’t had the same opportunities and are often not mentally prepared for this life-altering turn of events.
- The Timing
When you file for divorce first, you get to determine the timing of the divorce process. You get to start your divorce at a point of your choosing. You will also typically have a say when the court dates are established, whereas your future ex-spouse will likely need to abide by the timeline set forth by the courts. However, in some cases, an initial continuance is granted if there is a conflict with the first set date.
- You Get to Go First in Court
When you file first, you will be considered the “plaintiff.” As a result, you will typically be the first to present your side in court if the terms of your divorce are not settled through negotiations. In many cases, this helps frame certain issues and sets the tone for the proceedings, which can often affect the judge’s final determination.
- You Can Prepare
One of the most significant advantages is that you will have more time to prepare for the divorce since you are initiating it. You and your attorney will have more time to gather the necessary documentation, such as deeds, bank and investment statements, wills, trusts, life insurance policy information, and property titles. Having time on your side also allows you and your attorney to develop an effective course of action in securing your desired outcome.
- Choosing Your Battleground
If you and your spouse live in different counties or even other states, filing first allows you to choose the jurisdiction where the divorce proceedings will take place. However, your spouse will be able to challenge your choice in jurisdictions, which can result in a different jurisdiction, as well as additional legal fees for both of you.
- You Can Protect Your Assets
Filing first allows you to determine what you own and what you owe and gather the documentation you need. And possibly even more importantly, it also gives you a chance to figure out what your spouse owns. Knowing your spouse’s assets will make their attempts at hiding assets in the divorce by opening up separate accounts or transferring money or other assets to friends or family members ultimately unsuccessful.
It is important to note that Ohio is not a community property state or a 50/50 split of all property acquired over the course of your marriage. Instead, Ohio law follows the equitable distribution rule. In an equitable distribution state, more assets are considered community property. However, the property isn’t necessarily split right down the middle. The judge considers several factors when making a determination and ultimately divides your assets in a way he or she feels is fair and just.
- Filing First May Just Simply Make You Feel Better
Going through a divorce can turn your life upside down. You might feel completely helpless and believe your life is completely out of control. Dealing with the uncertainty of the situation can quickly become overwhelming. However, when you file for divorce, you will likely feel you are taking control of the situation and have a say in your future. It may just give you the confidence boost you need to get you through the process and allow you to move on with your life.
The Disadvantages of Filing First
- You Show Your Hand
When you petition for divorce, you generally must list your wishes and demands, and your soon-to-be-ex will see these when they are served the papers. These include matters such as Ohio property division, child custody, and spousal support. Knowing what you want allows them to come up with a counterattack.
- It Can Cost You More
Generally, the spouse who files for divorce will pay for the court filing fees. And because you were proactive and likely hired an attorney first, you may also end up paying more attorney fees since your family law attorney likely had to gather the majority of the needed information.
- You Take Responsibility for Ending Your Marriage
If there is any chance of a reconciliation, filing for divorce will likely end it. If you are sure the marriage is over, filing first can be beneficial. But filing first can end up being a tragic decision if your marriage could have ultimately been saved over time or through counseling.
Should You Hire a Divorce Lawyer?
In some cases, both spouses can come together and agree on all terms relating to their divorce without the help of attorneys and without heading to court. But even in these cases, it is always best to have an attorney review the terms to ensure the agreement is fair and truly in line with your needs and objectives.
But in most cases, there are at least a few areas where you and your spouse will disagree. And in other divorces, the entire process becomes extremely contentious, which can result in a lengthy and difficult battle.
In either of these situations, having the help of an experienced and dedicated family law attorney can be invaluable. They can keep you apprised of your rights and protect them diligently throughout the process. Your attorney can also help you gather all important information, so you can make an informed decision on your demands on matters such as property division, child support, and spousal support.
Getting Started on Your Ohio Divorce
At Slater & Zurz, we understand how painful divorce can be. Even in the most contested and complex divorce, our Ohio divorce lawyers stand by our clients throughout the process, ensuring their rights and best interests are always protected.
We thoroughly and effectively handle divorces and other family law matters, such as issues relating to child custody and visitation, child support, and property division, and fight hard to get you and your family the resolution you deserve.
Whether you live in Akron, Canton, or Cleveland, We handle most Family law Legal services throughout Northeast Ohio. We can help. Reach out to Northeast Ohio’s top family law attorneys at Slater & Zurz. Schedule your no-obligation case review by calling (330) 762-0700 or contacting us online.