Florida is a no-fault state for divorces. Either spouse can obtain a divorce by filing a petition claiming the marriage is irretrievably broken because of irreconcilable differences.
Judges do not give preferential treatment to the spouse who files first. Therefore, there is no legal advantage to filing for divorce first in Florida. However, that does not mean other kinds of advantages and disadvantages exist for filing for divorce first.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Filing for Divorce First in Orlando, Florida
Filing for divorce first does have some advantages. However, in other situations, doing so might not be to your benefit. We’ll look at both sides to give you a better idea of what you need to consider.
Advantage – More Time To Prepare
Contact an Orlando divorce lawyer for a free consultation if you are considering a divorce. An attorney explains your legal rights, how Florida divorce laws impact your situation, and how you can protect your and your children’s best interests.
By filing for divorce first, you can move at your pace and make necessary preparations and living arrangements. In some cases, filing first is necessary because of the need for emergency motions related to child custody, domestic violence, protection of assets, and other urgent matters.
The spouse being served with divorce papers is at a disadvantage. They have 20 days to respond to the petition for dissolution of marriage. Therefore, they do not have as much time to locate and hire an Orlando divorce attorney and prepare a response.
Disadvantage – Paying Filing Fees and Expenses
The spouse filing for divorce first is responsible for paying the court’s filing fee to open a divorce case. Additionally, they must pay to serve the divorce papers on their spouse and pay the attorneys’ fees to represent them in the divorce.
The other spouse might choose not to respond to the divorce papers. If they agree with the relief requested in the petition for divorce, they might let the court enter a default divorce judgment. If so, they do not have any costs for obtaining a divorce.
Allowing a default divorce judgment could be risky. You cannot be sure what the judge will order during the hearing, and your spouse could change their mind and ask for additional relief.
Advantage – Protect Your Income and Property
When you file for divorce, it establishes a separation date. At that point, income and property not jointly owned become separate. Filing for divorce first lets you choose when to separate your finances and future assets.
Disadvantage – Revealing Your Interests
The divorce complaint includes your request for relief. Relief in a divorce is the terms you request for the divorce decree. For example, you may ask for sole child custody, spousal support, and a larger distribution of marital assets.
Filing for divorce first shows your hand immediately. Your spouse has time to consider all their options, including whether to settle or file a counter-petition asking for different relief. A spouse might rush to conceal assets.
Advantage – Choosing the Jurisdiction
The spouse filing for divorce first in Florida chooses which court they want to hear the case. A person must live in Florida for at least six months to file for divorce. Additionally, they must live in the same county in which they file.
Therefore, the spouse filing first could move to another county if they prefer another court. However, Florida divorce laws apply throughout the state, so the only advantage of choosing your jurisdiction might be a court would move quicker or have slightly different local rules. You should consult an experienced Florida divorce lawyer to make an informed decision about jurisdiction.
Advantage – Control and Emotional Disclosure
Filing for divorce first in Orlando can give you a sense of control and confidence. It can also provide some emotional closure because you are taking the step to end your marriage.
However, this advantage is short-lived. Because there is no legal advantage to filing for divorce first, your spouse can respond to the divorce papers and aggressively pursue their desired divorce terms.
Talk to an Orlando Divorce Lawyer Before Making Decisions Regarding a Divorce in Florida
Whether you file for divorce first or respond to a petition for dissolution of marriage, having experienced legal counsel is the best way to protect yourself and your children. Representing yourself in a divorce action can put you at a disadvantage, especially if your spouse retains an attorney.
Before rushing to file for divorce, ensure you are doing what will be in your best interest in the long term. Otherwise, you might do more harm by filing a divorce complaint first.