If you are contemplating divorce in Arizona and feel that your relationship with your spouse is on the edge of disaster, you might want to investigate your options by consulting with an Arizona family lawyer. One common question for women and men in this situation is,  “Does it matter if I’m the first one to file for divorce?”  Read on to learn more about whether this matters, and the factors you should consider before filing for divorce.

Benefits of Filing First

If you decide to file for divorce before your spouse does, this does give you additional time to put together a team of qualified experts to help you achieve an outcome that is in your best interest. Outside of an Arizona family law attorney you might also engage a financial analyst to help explore assets, debts and anything related to a family business. This is also a good opportunity to consider engaging a therapist to help you work through the emotional aspects of the divorce.

Get Copies of Documents

In addition to gathering this team of experts, you also have advanced notice to begin preparing all of your documentation so that you are ready when the divorce starts. Having copies of all legal and financial documents is essential for providing them to your attorney as soon as possible. Brokerage statements, tax returns, insurance policies, wills, trusts, real estate records, vehicle registrations and bank statements may all be important in your Arizona divorce. Not having these organized ahead of time can produce a significant burden for you or your family law attorney. Filing first gives you an additional opportunity to get them together.

Determine Your Own Financial Situation

Filing first also gives you the opportunity to analyze your own financial situation to determine whether you have access to resources and credit before you file. Setting aside money for the expenses involved in a divorce can be overwhelming, but knowing that divorce is on the horizon gives you an additional chance to plan. If you don’t have a credit card in your own name, this is a good opportunity to consider one.

May Stop Hiding of Assets

One final benefit to filing first is that doing so without advance notice can stop the other spouse from attempting to hide assets, particularly if you believe that your spouse might attempt to hide assets so that they are not included in the division of property during the divorce. It can be a good idea to file first and initiate the proceedings as soon as possible. Once again, having a financial analyst on your side before the divorce process begins can be extremely helpful so that you can begin the research on determining the total assets and liabilities that could be factored into the community property division.

Domestic Violence

In circumstances involving domestic violence or jeopardy to a child or party, it may be best to file first so that you can also concurrently file for emergency orders without your spouse being aware that an action is pending at all, and possibly lashing out.  Always plan for your safety in such circumstances.

When Order of Filing Doesn’t Really Matter

Whether a party to a non-covenant marriage is a Petitioner or Respondent, the Court will treat both parties equally because we are a “no-fault state.”  That is, the Court does not concern itself who wants the divorce and why.  The only difference from the Court’s perspective is who gets to present evidence first at an evidentiary hearing or Trial, and what the amount of a party’s filing fee will be (the fees are generally about $50 different in Maricopa County).

Before filing for divorce in Arizona, make sure that you have hired a competent and experienced Arizona family law attorney. Getting these questions answered first can tell you if it’s the right time to file and whether there are any benefits with moving forward right away.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Does It Matter if I’m the First One to File for Divorce?, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Lindsay A.M. Olivarez at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.