Is it better to file first, or should you wait for your spouse to file? Does it matter who files for divorce first in Texas? The truth is, in most cases, it doesn’t. That being said, there are some advantages to filing first — and whether or not these advantages are significant enough to warrant making an immediate decision will depend on your personal circumstances. 

If you’re considering filing for a divorce in Texas, here’s what you need to know about making the first move. 

What Are the Advantages of Filing First?

Setting the Tone of the Divorce

Whoever files first is considered “the petitioner” by the courts. In certain situations, the petitioner will not only have a slight procedural advantage, but will also get to set the tone of the proceedings. And if you would like to pursue an uncontested, amicable divorce, you have a better chance of achieving that by filing first. 

Choosing the County Where the Proceedings Will Occur

If you’re separated from your spouse and they have been living in another county in Texas for at least ninety days, you may prefer to have the proceedings in the county where you live. If your spouse files first, they may select their own county, which would force you to travel for any courtroom proceedings. Of course, in some cases, you may prefer to file divorce in your spouse’s county if you think their county court would offer you some advantage. 

Setting the First Hearing Date

You get to decide when the court will hear arguments on temporary restraining orders. If you can no longer trust your spouse with money or property that rightfully belongs to the marriage, filing first thus gives you some control over the situation. 

You can petition the court to issue temporary restraining orders preventing your spouse from making business or monetary decisions while the divorce is proceeding. This can prevent them from selling assets, transferring property, or otherwise attempting to “protect” assets that rightfully belong to the marriage.

You can also file a motion to prevent them from leaving the state with your children.

Going First at Hearings or Trial

Depending on your circumstances, this can either be an advantage or a disadvantage:

  • If your divorce goes to court, you get to present your side of the story first. This allows you to frame the discourse and control the arguments to some extent, which could have a greater impact on the judge or jury.
  • Paradoxically, however, going first can sometimes be a disadvantage. In some cases, it’s better to go second so that you can respond to the opposing side’s arguments. You also get to have the last say.

Getting More Time to Prepare Your Strategy

When you file first, you can collect information on your financial records that your spouse may be attempting to hide from you. You will also have more time to speak with a divorce lawyer and prepare your strategy if you believe your spouse will attempt to funnel assets to limit their exposure during the property division.

What If My Spouse Already Filed?

If your spouse has already beat you to the punch, it’s no cause for panic. You don’t have to take it as a sign that you’re now at some huge disadvantage. Because while there are some benefits to filing first, the court will usually try to evaluate both sides fairly, and you will still have a chance to argue your case.

You do, however, have to act quickly. Once you’ve been served with papers, it’s best to speak with an experienced divorce attorney, such as those at The Alsandor Law Firm, as soon as possible so that you can build a solid case and make sure you protect your interests.

Speak to a Houston Divorce Attorney Today

Before you consider your first move, talk to a Houston divorce attorney about your goals, as well as what you would like to protect during the divorce. We can help you understand your options and guide you through the process. Contact the Alsandor Law Firm today to learn more.