As a San Antonio divorce attorney, I am asked the question “does it matter who files first” very often. The answer is that it, in most cases, it probably doesn’t matter that much but at other times it can be important. This question should be answered on a case by case basis. However, for the purposes of this blog, I will share some general perspectives on filing first for divorce in Texas.
One advantage to filing first is that you get to talk first in court. That can be an advantage at times, but other times it is advantageous to talk second and get the last word in. Another advantage is that if you file first, you can set the initial tone and the speed of the case. For example, if you file first, you have the option of being the first to decide if you need a temporary orders hearing. A temporary orders hearing is a hearing where the judge will decide issues such as custody, child support, living arrangements, and paying the bills. If your spouse files first, that doesn’t mean you can’t set it for a hearing. Whether you file first or second, you can set it for a temporary hearing.
Another advantage of filing first is being able to obtain immediate help and relief from the court if you need it. In most Texas counties, as soon as you file for divorce a standard order comes into place regarding assets and children. These orders can be powerful and help prevent future problems. It may important for you to get those orders in place right away. Also, if you need a protective order or need to prevent your spouse from moving away with your children, you will need to file first so that the judge can enter some immediate orders regarding those issues.
One disadvantage to filing first in most Texas counties is that the typically the filing fee for the person who files first is more expensive. For example, in Bexar County, the filing fee for the person who files first in a divorce that involves children is $304.00. The fee for their spouse to file a counter-petition is just $40.00.
Bottom line- You technically do not get a legal advantage to filing first. However, filing first does let you control some aspects of the case at the beginning that you would otherwise not be able to control. If you are considering divorce or you think your spouse might be thinking of filing for divorce, call me at 210-202-2323. As a San Antonio divorce attorney, I can help weigh the pros and cons of filing first with you and help you make that decision.