Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First?

In Arkansas, it typically does not matter who files for divorce first. Either spouse may initiate the divorce process by filing a divorce petition with the circuit court in the county where they live or the county where his or her spouse lives. However, there are a few potential issues to keep in mind if you are considering filing a divorce petition.

First Thing to Consider in the Divorce Process

The first thing to consider is that the spouse filing for divorce first gets to control the timing of the divorce. This eliminates waiting around on your spouse to file for divorce and is the biggest reason we see people filing the initial divorce papers. They are tired of waiting on a spouse to file and allows them the strategic advantages of planning out the process, to make sure they have everything prepared, to make sure they have plenty of time to meet with the right attorney, and to be emotionally and financially prepared. Filing first also lets you pick the county that the case is filed in if you and your spouse have moved to different counties. As mentioned above, a divorce can be filed in the county you live in or your spouse lives in. There might be some advantages to being able to pick which county the case is in; if nothing else, it could stop you from having to travel for court hearings.

Should You Discuss Filing Divorce Papers with Your Spouse?

Second, if one of the spouses file for divorce before the other spouse is ready or expecting it, it can be a shock and may create additional stress and conflict through the divorce proceedings. In almost all situations it is best to discuss the divorce case with your spouse before filing or serving them any divorce paperwork. The exception to that would be if you feel unsafe having that discussion with your spouse.

Another thing to consider is that filing for divorce means you won’t be served any legal paperwork by a process server. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being served paperwork, but it makes a lot of people uncomfortable so if you file the case first, you get to avoid this part of the case.

How a Divorce Lawyer Helps in Court

A fourth thing to consider is the potential financial implications of filing for divorce first. In some cases, the first spouse filing for divorce may be entitled to ask the court for certain financial benefits, such as the exclusive use of the marital property or temporary orders for spousal support. These benefits can be significant, especially if the divorce is likely to be contentious or if there are significant financial disparities between the spouses. The spouse filing first can make these requests to the court and will have more time to prepare arguments for a hearing that could be scheduled shortly after the case is filed.

Finally, it’s important to consider the potential impact of filing for divorce might have on any children involved. If children are involved, the filing spouse may be seen as the initiator of the divorce, which could affect the way custody and parenting time are awarded. However, in most cases, the court will not consider who files the divorce as a reason to make a custody decision.

Almost all of this comes down to how much time each spouse has to prepare. If you are the one filing for divorce first, you also have ample time to prepare for a temporary child custody hearing. This tends to lead to a better outcome at the temporary child custody hearing for the other spouse.

Can a Divorce Attorney Help?

In the end, the most important thing is to be sure that you are ready to file for divorce and that you understand the potential legal consequences of your actions. If you have any concerns or questions, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney who can help you understand your rights and options.