Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First? 3 Reasons You May Want to Wait

Top 3 Financial Reasons NOT to Be the First One to File for Divorce

Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First?

When you know that divorce is inevitable, you may wonder if there are advantages and disadvantages in being the first one to file. Although many believe that submitting a divorce petition before their spouse is beneficial, that’s not always the case.

Although spouses who file first can potentially have the power to choose where to get divorced, the majority of people going through a divorce believe that monetary concerns are more important than the choice of courthouse.

But financially speaking, it may be in your best interests NOT to file first.

1. Your spouse may know your financial demands.

A divorce petition typically includes the list of your financial wants and demands. It almost always involves property division, including how the petitioner wishes to negotiate finances. Grounds for spousal and child support may also be outlined.

When you’re the divorce petitioner, your spouse will see this list of desires when he or she is served. This action could result in a potential counterattack on your finances, which could cost you more money in the end.

2. You may pay divorce filing fees.

Divorce is a civil affair that entails the judgment of a local court. In order to begin the divorce proceedings, a petition must be filed. This petition is for the dissolution of marriage, and it must be filed with the court clerk in the county you currently reside in.

Those going through a divorce may not be properly informed that the first person to petition for a divorce usually pays the filing fees. These fees must be paid in order to file papers with the court. In most counties across the country, the filing fee is a few hundred dollars. These fees are government-mandated, and they’re on top of any other legal or service fees.

Each court’s exact fee schedules are generally posted on their websites. Be advised that there are some additional, hidden costs associated with filing fees. The court may charge the petitioner for any certified copies of the requested petitions. Any motions, requests, and proposed orders also come with a fee.

3. You may pay more in divorce attorney fees.

When you file first, your divorce attorney gets right to work. While your attorney is busy gathering and compiling information for your case, you’re paying for his or her services. In addition, if you file first, your attorney will assist with the filing process. Again, the time and effort involved has a cost that you’ll have to pay.

Furthermore, your current spouse may contest the divorce, or you may find that you must negotiate terms. And that means more work on your attorney’s part—and more money out of your pocketbook.

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.