What Happens If My Husband Files for Divorce First?

What happens if your husband files for divorce before you? In theory, it doesn’t matter who files for divorce first. It may be more beneficial to file first from a planning perspective, but if your husband files for divorce first, it does not mean that you have fewer legal rights. Once served with papers, you will have 30 days to file a response.

If you’re headed for divorce, you may not always have seen it coming or even spoken about the topic with your partner. Even if it was a mutual decision, it can still be devastating and challenging to cope with. No matter what led to the divorce, we all know how painful and difficult it can be. Besides all the legal complications of a divorce, you’re now wondering what will happen if your husband files for divorce first?

If your husband filed for divorce first, it’s best to plan your next steps. This requires some legal advice and finding a good divorce lawyer, as soon as possible, is highly recommended.  Ideally, it is better to prepare for the divorce before it is even filed. However, if your husband has filed for divorce first, you still have the same chance of getting the best possible outcome. This is where excellent legal advice comes in handy.

man with wedding rings on table files for divorce with paperwork

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What Does It Mean If My Husband Filed for Divorce First?

If you’re concerned that your husband may have the upper hand by filing for divorce before you have the change, this is not necessarily the case. Your legal rights won’t be affected if you do not file first. Once you have been given the divorce papers, the court prevents you from making significant changes in health insurance, house rental, and life insurance. You then also have 30 days to file a response with the court.

Specific guidelines regarding property, children, spousal support, debt, and other assets will be set out on the divorce circumstances. In addition, depending on which state you reside in, additional fees may be payable apart from lawyers’ fees. Finally, the court date will be set, and eventually, the divorce will be finalized.

One of the most challenging parts of the process involves the custody of any minor children and the division of assets. This can include a lot of negotiation back and forth between the two parties until a consensus is reached.

It is okay to feel blindsided or stunned by your husband filing first. But unfortunately, the lines are often blurry when it comes to divorce. The best way to move forward if your husband has filed for divorce is to plan accordingly.

The Pros and Cons of Being First to File for Divorce 

There are advantages and disadvantages to filing first. While some may argue that the first person to file has the upper hand, this depends on the specific situation.

The Pros of Filing for Divorce First

  1. Temporary orders. The spouse who filed first can ask the court for temporary orders which prohibit the other spouse from changing the marital property funds and/or awarding temporary child custody.
  2. Control over the pace. If your husband filed for divorce, he might have some control over the divorce timeline. The spouse who filed first would have done it at a suitable time for them, which may not be as ideal for the other person involved. The other spouse is then left having to respond to the court based on the court’s deadline.
  3. Court location. If your husband filed first, he would have followed state laws and may be able to file in a different jurisdiction. However, he could also choose a faraway state, requiring you to travel for all court appointments.
  4. Planning. The spouse who has filed first has the opportunity to plan accordingly ahead of time. For example, your husband would be able to plan his lawyers, the court jurisdiction, and financial commitments. In a more acrimonious situation, it could also mean he has had the opportunity to move (or hide) assets before filing, to ensure he has the best financial advantage during the proceedings.
  5. Advantageous financial position. If a spouse files first, they have certain monetary advantages. If you have filed first, you better plan for financial shortcomings related to the divorce proceedings (such as the freezing of joint accounts during the process).
  6. First choice of lawyers. If you file first, you have the first choice of any law firm you choose. There is a minor advantage to selecting a top law firm to get the best outcome for the divorce.

The Disadvantages of Filing for Divorce First

  1. Demands are listed. When your husband files for divorce first, he must record his requests. This means you have a slight advantage as you know what they want and can defend yourself from these demands and list your own.
  2. Can pay more. Generally, the spouse who files first can end up paying more fees. Your lawyer may need more information or more time to spend on your case, resulting in more lawyers’ fees.
  3. First to dissolve the marriage. If you file for the divorce first, there is a dissolution of marriage. If your relationship gets to this point, there is not much chance of reconciliation as one spouse has decided to file for divorce.

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What Can I Do If My Husband Filed for Divorce First?

If your husband has filed for divorce first, it’s essential to consider the next steps. Firstly, look for a reputable divorce lawyer who can offer legal advice and guide you with the divorce process. Next, you’ll want to plan financially for the future and plan for costs associated with the divorce.

The petition to dissolve the marriage will cover essential aspects such as the custody of children, division of debt and property, and alimony and/or child support. Your husband would have listed his requests regarding what he wants, and you can agree or disagree with his petition. However, you must respond within the 30-day window, or all his demands could be awarded by default.

Many states have the no-fault divorce policy, meaning that any misconduct or fault in a marriage has no grounds for deciding whether to grant the divorce.

If your husband files first, there are disadvantages. The most prominent is that he will be more likely to face heavy lawyers’ fees. However, amicable divorce proceedings are hoped for in any situation, ensuring both parties can get the best outcome.

If you have received the divorce papers already, there are a few things you should do.

  1. Read through the divorce papers carefully. The divorce papers will contain a lot of information, which may seem intimidating. However, carefully reading the divorce papers will help you understand what is in the documents and what to expect from the divorce. You should also find a deadline in the papers and possibly information about the grounds of divorce, property and spousal support, and custody of children.
  2. Gather important documents. After hiring an attorney and providing your response within 30 days, you will need to gather important documents. The typical documentation required is birth certificates, social security cards, and your marriage certificate. In addition, financial records, banks statements, and tax documents may also be required.
  3. Find out how to protect your assets. Keeping a tight watch over your own assets may be challenging, but there are ways to freeze significant assets. Some jurisdictions have policies that freeze all assets once the divorce is filed with the court. If you and your husband have a joint bank account, it will be best to consider setting up a separate one (if you do not already have one). Also, keep track of any mutual debts; paying off a debt you weren’t expecting can have a significant financial impact on your life.
  4. Limit and safeguard communication. Try to send your mail to a different address so your spouse does not have access to any letters your lawyers may send. Also, change your email and cellphone passwords to keep communication with your lawyers private.

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If your husband has started the divorce proceedings and you’re unsure what to do next, the best idea would be to start to plan for your future. Divorce can bring on significant changes and new opportunities. Find a reputable law firm specializing in divorces to help you get the best out of your divorce.

Plan for financial challenges and take the necessary steps to respond to court documents and attend all court dates. This will give you the best advantage possible in navigating your divorce.

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