Whether there is any advantage to filing for divorce first is a frequently asked question, and the answer is maybe. There are times when it is advantageous and other times when it will make no difference.
When Would Filing First Not Matter?
More often than not, both parties are well aware of an impending divorce, and the requests and evidence submitted by each party will be reviewed impartially by the court. Filing first does not mean the court will favor your submissions simply because you did so before your spouse. Additionally, Washington is a no-fault, which means you do not need to prove grounds for the divorce. Making sure your allegations are heard first won’t be a factor if you file first. However, there are still several strategic advantages to filing first.
Advantages to Filing for Divorce First
If there is no chance of you and your spouse reconciling, consider the following reasons why it could matter if you file first:
You Will Choose the Location
If you file first, you can choose to file for divorce in the county where you reside. This could be a huge deal if your spouse lives in a separate county, another part of Washington, or out of state. Washington does not require you to have lived in the state for a specific amount of time. Before filing, you simply have to establish that you are a resident.
You Control the Timeline
By filing first, you can have your Spokane divorce attorney and advisers hired in advance, which will not leave you scrambling at the last minute to find representation. Your spouse will have no choice but to respond within 20 days of being served. You will also have the advantage of mentally preparing and gearing up for any potential issues with your spouse.
You Can Seek Temporary Orders
If you want the court to decide on critical issues and enforce temporary orders, it might make sense for you to file first. Before notifying your spouse that you filed for divorce, you can ask the court for temporary orders when you file. These orders often address:
Sale or possession of the marital home
Possession of the family car
Child custody and visitation schedule
Uninsured medical expenses
Restrain a spouse from contacting or coming near the other spouse
Order either spouse from selling valuable assets and marital possessions
Non-filing spouses can respond to your request, but it must be filed at the same time as their response to the divorce petition or before.
Is There an Option To File for Divorce Together?
If you and your spouse can amicably make all of the critical decisions related to your divorce, another option is an uncontested divorce. Before either of you file, you and your spouse will write up or have an attorney draft a divorce settlement agreement then file it with the petition. This will streamline the process; however, you will still have to wait the state-mandated 90-day cooling-off period before your divorce will become final.