Divorce can be a messy and emotionally challenging process for anyone. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about divorce and myths that persist and influence critical decisions during the initial stages of divorce. One of these myths is that the spouse who files for divorce inherently assumes some legal advantage over the respondent. While there is no real advantage to filing first, is there a disadvantage to filing for divorce first in Pasadena?
Ultimately, there are both advantages and disadvantages to being the first to file a divorce petition. However, these benefits and drawbacks fluctuate based on various factors unique to your situation. While it may behoove one person to be the first to file a divorce petition, it may not suit the interests of another person in a different marital situation. One of the best things you can do if you are unsure of how to proceed with the first stages of the divorce process is to consult an experienced Pasadena divorce lawyer.
The Divorce Filing Process
To initiate a divorce in California, one of the married spouses files a divorce petition with the local court. This requires a reasonable filing fee, and the filing spouse will likely need to hire an attorney to help them draft their petition. It is important to note that there is an essence of finality to filing for divorce. For example, suppose you and your spouse have been discussing potentially divorcing, and you file a divorce petition. In that case, there will be little hope of reconciliation after this point, as you have made the first move toward making the divorce official.
It’s worth consulting a Pasadena divorce lawyer before formalizing your divorce process. Your attorney can review the details of your situation and help you determine whether filing first would better suit your interests. In some cases, an alternative to divorce may be more suitable. For example, you and your spouse may potentially reconcile through marriage counseling, or filing for legal separation instead may allow you both to have time to cool off before making any more permanent decisions about the future of your marriage. If you are confident your marriage should end, taking the appropriate time to prepare for the process and consult an attorney are crucial steps before you file your divorce petition.
Drawbacks of Filing First
There are several disadvantages to being the first spouse to file for divorce in Pasadena:
- You formalize the process. Once you submit your divorce petition, the process begins, and if there was any hope of reconciliation at this point, it has likely been diminished significantly. It’s reasonable to consider filing for divorce as a “point of no return” as most people do not withdraw divorce petitions once submitted.
- You likely incur more fees. As the filing party, you are responsible for paying the court filing fee for your divorce petition. In addition, since you will likely need a lawyer, you will be paying legal fees longer than your spouse because they will likely hire legal counsel once they receive the divorce petition.
- You notify your spouse of your demands. Your divorce petition must include a clear list of your expectations for the divorce. This essentially alerts your spouse to what you expect from the process, allowing them to rally legal counsel and prepare counteroffers more effectively.
- You limit your options. Once you have initiated divorce proceedings by filing a divorce petition, you are essentially locked into the process unless you formally withdraw the divorce petition. At this point, your spouse may not be willing to explore alternatives to the process and will likely have secured legal representation of their own. Consulting an attorney and discussing potential solutions with your spouse could help you avoid a costly and challenging process that will affect the rest of your life.
- You completely shift your family dynamics. Divorce is especially hard when divorcing spouses have children. Once you submit your divorce petition, you will need to explain what is happening to your children. This will be emotionally trying for all of you, especially younger children who may not understand what is happening.
It is crucial to keep these issues in mind when you are considering filing for divorce. Depending on your situation, both you and your spouse may be prepared to file a divorce petition. Still, it is often worth discussing the situation before taking formal steps. It is also important to consult an attorney to determine whether being the first to file would suit your best interests. If you are certain that you need to file a divorce petition, your attorney can help you draft the petition and include reasonable terms that may help you streamline the divorce negotiation process.
Advantages to Filing First
While there are some drawbacks to being the first to file a divorce petition, doing so can potentially afford you some benefits. First, you get to set the tone for the divorce and put your spouse in a position to retain legal counsel and submit their response very soon. Second, being the first to file a divorce petition may allow you some measure of control over your proceedings, such as selection of court dates and deciding the jurisdiction where your divorce will unfold. Finally, you may also be able to establish your separate property ownership rights more easily by being the first to file.
What Happens After a Divorce Petition Is Filed?
Whether you or your spouse files a divorce petition, the next step is the response. After one spouse has filed their divorce petition, the court will formally register the petition and serve divorce papers to the other spouse. This spouse becomes the respondent and may agree to the petitioner’s terms and sign off on an uncontested divorce, or they may agree to the divorce but dispute the proposed terms. This is a “contested” divorce, and both spouses will need to resolve their disputes until they reach mutually agreeable terms and finalize their divorce.
There are several options for resolving a contested divorce. Mediation has become the most popular option for handling the divorce process in the US because it allows both spouses to save time, money, and stress by avoiding a strict and complex litigation process. Once the respondent receives their spouse’s divorce petition, they can respond with their own proposed terms, and the negotiation process begins. The spouses can pursue alternative dispute resolution if they are both willing to negotiate; otherwise, they must prepare for divorce litigation.
Find Reliable Legal Counsel
Facing a divorce is never easy, even when you know it’s best for your marriage to end and for you and your spouse to go your separate ways. However, making hasty or spiteful decisions in the initial stages of divorce can backfire in unexpected ways, so it is crucial to approach the preliminary stages of divorce with clarity and understanding of what the process entails. The Khalaf Law Group can provide the legal guidance you need to make sound decisions concerning your divorce case in Pasadena, CA. If you are unsure whether you should file your divorce petition, wait for your spouse to file, or explore other options, contact us today to schedule a consultation with a compassionate and experienced Pasadena divorce lawyer.