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Five Benefits To Filing First In A Divorce


The decision to move forward with a divorce filing is unquestionably difficult. One factor in making that decision for many people can be whether to file themselves or wait to see if their spouse files before them. For many people, this also raises the question of whether there are any benefits to being the spouse that files the action or being the one that is responding to it. In Georgia, there can be several advantages to being the party the filed first, including the following:

  • Control over timing: By filing and serving the divorce petition first, you control the timing of the beginning of the action and many of the deadlines that follow. For example, it starts the clock on when your spouse must file a response, which in turn triggers the beginning of the discovery period. In certain counties, it may also determine when certain status conferences or hearings can occur.
  • Speaking first at trial: As the party that filed the divorce, you are the “plaintiff” or “petitioner” in the case. This comes with the benefit of generally being the party that gets to present their case first at the trial of your case. You get the first word, which can be a powerful position when trying to persuade a judge or jury to your position.
  • Determining where to file: While the determination of where (i.e., which state or county court) to file your case is often determined by jurisdictional rules, sometimes there are multiple counties in which a case might be brought. In those instances, being the first party to file allows you to control that decision. Different courts handle divorce cases differently. Some are faster, others are slower. Some have special procedures for family cases, others do not. Being able to make the decision on where to file, when there are multiple options, may have an impact on how your case proceeds.
  • Avoid surprise and be prepared: The divorce process can require a significant time investment from the parties. There are often many financial and other documents that you will need to obtain and provide to your counsel to effectively assist you in navigating the litigation and outcome. Being the party that files first usually means that you are in the driver’s seat, and you and your attorney will be able to prepare ahead of time for the parts of the litigation process that require work on your end. You will also have the benefit of avoiding the surprise of being served with divorce papers, which can happen at your home, work, or anywhere else you can be found.
  • Securing the status quo: Finally, a major benefit to controlling the timing of filing the divorce action by filing first is that it will put in place the court’s “Standing Order.” The Standing Order is an order issued in every divorce case as soon as the case is filed that contains several provisions meant to ensure that neither party conducts themselves outside the ordinary course of business. Specifically, it will generally prevent either party from taking the children outside the state without consent, cancelling insurance policies, selling assets, or taking other action that might drain the marital estate outside the ordinary course. By filing first, you ensure that this order gets entered sooner than later to preserve the status quo of your family and your financial circumstances.

Whether you are trying to decide whether to file for divorce, you have been served divorce papers, or you are just looking for advice on how to navigate the process, the attorneys at Buckhead Family Law are here to help. Schedule a consultation today by calling 404-600-6699.

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