Being the first to file for divorce has several advantages

Divorce can be a difficult and emotional process. Dealing with all of the aspects of a divorce can be even more difficult when a spouse's decision to divorce is unexpected.

However, many times both spouses know they are heading toward divorce. If this is the case, there are numerous legal and financial benefits to being the first to file a divorce petition.

Filing first provides an opportunity to get organized and assemble a divorce team

First, it is important to consider timing. If the other spouse is due to receive any substantial increase in wealth, such as a bonus or raise, it is best to wait until after the money has been paid out before filing. If the divorce is filed earlier, the other spouse may be able to claim that this money is not marital property. In addition, married couples who file their tax returns jointly can receive certain tax benefits, so this also may affect one's decision regarding the timing of divorce.

Once the timing is right, filing first guarantees organization. An article on Forbes.com notes that divorce involves substantial paperwork and the gathering of many documents such as bank statements, tax returns and records relating to real estate and vehicles.

The spouse who files first is usually required to locate and copy all of these important documents, which typically involves a significant investment of time and effort. Gathering these documents also enables a spouse to make sure both names are on all accounts that require joint signatures.

Filing first also enables a spouse to assemble a qualified team of professionals to provide guidance through the divorce process. A typical divorce team includes:

  • An attorney
  • A therapist
  • A financial advisor

For individuals who have been out of the work force for several years, a vocational expert can also be a valuable asset. Because assembling this team of specialists can require a significant financial investment, a spouse planning to file first can save up money prior to filing for divorce, in anticipation of these future costs.

Additionally, although an amicable divorce is always hoped for, filing first can help prevent the other spouse from hiding assets. Concealing assets is unfortunately a common problem, and filing first helps avoid any potential conflicts due to hidden assets.

There are also various legal benefits to being the first to file for divorce. Divorce proceedings usually take place in the jurisdiction in which the petition is filed, and the petition usually must be filed in the county and state where at least one of the spouses resides. This can be a huge advantage if the spouses reside in different states, or a spouse recently moved to another state, and one particular location has more advantageous legal options. States vary widely in how they handle issues such as alimony, child support or child custody, so filing for divorce in one state over the other sometimes can make a huge difference.

An individual considering filing for divorce should speak with a qualified divorce attorney. The attorney can provide valuable guidance and advocacy.