This question is presented quite often during consults with our clients. Individuals considering filing for divorce want to know if there are any advantages to filing the action prior to their spouse doing the same. Every situation is different, however, these are some things to keep in mind if you are the first to file:
1) You get to determine where the action is filed and where your divorce proceeding is heard. This is usually the most important aspect of filing first for couples that have been separated and your spouse lives in a different county or state. By filing the action first, you have ensured you will not have to travel long distances to attend any court hearings.
2) Filing first makes it easier to find an attorney. In connection with the first point, it is usually easier to find an attorney locally than it is to find one in a jurisdiction in which you are unfamiliar. Furthermore, if you beat your spouse to the courthouse, you can minimize any issues you may have with your spouse contacting a number of different attorneys and creating conflicts of interests in their ability to be retained by you.
3) Filing first helps ensure you have financial access to representation. If your spouse retains an attorney first, there may be no money left in your checking or savings account for you to pay the up front retainer. It also lets you be proactive in dealing with joint financial resources instead of reactive.
4) Filing first usually means you have easier access to marital documentation. Finding the documentation you need to provide to your attorney can sometimes be easier prior to your spouse knowing the process is in motion.