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Does It Matter Who Files for Florida Divorce First?


Sometimes, when both spouses are considering initiating a divorce, it may seem as if they are competing in who files for divorce first. But does it even matter who files first in Florida? Can you get the upper hand by being the “petitioner,” also known as the first party to initiate the process?

Why You Should File for Divorce First

The following are the advantages of filing for divorce first:

Less Stress and More Time to Prepare

Often, a spouse was is served with the petition for dissolution of marriage is caught off guard, especially if they did not see it coming. Thus, the petitioner can avoid the stress of being served with the petition and has more time to collect necessary documents, prepare their case, and contact an Orlando family law attorney.

You Get to Choose the Jurisdiction and Court

Under Florida Statutes § 61.021, at least one party must have resided in Florida for six months prior to initiating a divorce. Also, Florida law requires a spouse to file the petition in the county where he or she lives. Since the petitioner can choose the jurisdiction by filing in the county where they live, you can get the upper hand because doing so may be advantageous depending on your situation.

Safeguarding Your Finances

By filing for divorce, the petitioner no longer bears joint responsibility for debts accumulated by their spouse after the date of the filing. Also, after filing for divorce, you get to protect the income you earn, the retirement assets you accrue, and the assets you acquire after that date (it would not be subject to property division).

Protecting Yourself with a Temporary Restraining Order

The petitioner also has the chance to apply for a temporary restraining order against their spouse. Doing so is critical if filing for divorce puts you at greater risk of violence or threats. Do not hesitate to contact an attorney to help you file a petition for a domestic violence injunction.

More Confidence and Control

Filing first is also beneficial if you are worried that your spouse would not agree to the divorce or that they would put off initiating the process. You do not have to wait for your spouse, as you can be the one who gets the process moving.

Emotional Closure

Last but not least, the petitioner can find emotional closure faster than the other spouse. After all, being the one who initiates the process can feel empowering and can help the spouse find emotional closure faster.

Possible Drawbacks of Filing for Divorce First

Despite the six advantages of being the first to file for divorce in Florida, there are potential disadvantages to consider:

  • You are the one who ends the marriage. The petitioner is the spouse who makes the final decision that their marriage is irretrievably broken and it no longer makes any sense to try and fix something. Obviously, doing so could be an overwhelming responsibility to take on.
  • You will have to pay filing fees. The petitioner must pay filing fees in order to file for divorce in Florida.

If you hesitate to file the petition, consult with an Orlando divorce attorney at Greater Orlando Family Law to discuss your case. Call at 407-377-6399 to get a consultation.


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