Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Texas?
According to the BBC, women file 70% of the divorces in the US. Does this give women an advantage? Yes and no. Filing for divorce first is somewhat like winning a coin toss before a football game—there are some subtle advantages. Legally, the divorce petitioner does not have any extra rights over the respondent. In certain cases, the subtle advantages of filing first could actually have a meaningful impact. In other cases, these “home field advantages” might not even be noticed. What are the potential advantages of filing for divorce first in Texas?
Advantages of Being the Divorce Petitioner
The person who files for divorce gets to choose which jurisdiction to file the divorce in, if applicable. If a couple has just moved or is on active military duty, for example, there may be the option to file in two different jurisdictions. In many cases, the jurisdiction will ultimately make very little difference. Yet, in other situations, one jurisdiction versus another can result in a completely different division of property.
Texas is a community property state, so filing for divorce in a 50/50 division state could make a big difference for some couples. Additionally, Texas allows both at-fault and no-fault divorces. If the spouse who cheated, for example, were to file in one of the 17 no-fault states, this could make a significant difference.
Additionally, the divorce petitioner gets to choose the timing. If you are familiar with “Walk-Away Wife” syndrome, which ties into why women tend to file for divorce, controlling the timing is often a critical factor. The economic consequences of divorce are greater for women, statistically speaking. So, most women make a plan, which includes calculating the timing, before filing. This strategy may involve small timing factors like waiting until after a holiday to bigger delays like waiting to finish school or gathering evidence of infidelity.
Finally, the person who files for divorce sets the tone. If the divorce is going to be amicable and cooperative, that will be evidenced in what the filing spouse writes in the petition. On the other hand, if the filing spouse asks for an at-fault divorce, disputes property issues, or alleges abuse, the tone will be combative from the get-go. The first impression a judge gets of the divorce, of course, comes from the initial petition. If it paints one spouse in a negative way, this could create more of a hurdle for that spouse to overcome when it comes to child custody, for instance.
Advantages of Being the Divorce Respondent
Again, legally speaking, there is no technical benefit to being the petitioner. However, the respondent does not have to worry about paying the divorce filing fee. The fee is not significant and can even be waived, but it is nevertheless something the respondent does not have to deal with.
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