The divorce process can be simplified when the spouses agree to dissolve the marriage and negotiate a settlement to propose to the court. However, who should file for divorce first? Is there an advantage to filing for divorce first?

Depending on your circumstances and the type of divorce, a Bergen County divorce lawyer might advise you to be the first to file for divorce. Some things you and your attorney will discuss and consider that could impact whether you want to file for divorce first in New Jersey include:

Choosing the Grounds for Divorce

New Jersey has no-fault grounds for divorces. When you file your petition to dissolve your marriage, you can choose irreconcilable differences as the grounds for divorce. If you pursue a no-fault divorce, you do not need to prove your spouse committed wrongdoing to obtain a divorce. If you file first, you choose the grounds for the divorce.

However, this does not prevent your spouse from filing a response alleging you of fault for the breakup of the marriage. Fault grounds for divorce are listed in New Jersey Statutes Annotated §2A:34-2 and include:

  • Adultery
  • Imprisonment
  • Separation
  • Desertion
  • Being institutionalized for mental illness
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Voluntary addition to narcotic drugs
  • Deviant sexual conduct
  • Habitual drunkenness

If you have fault grounds for divorce, filing first allows you to choose them as the basis for the proceedings and make your case. Your attorney can advise you on what is best in your situation.

Choosing Jurisdiction

When you file for divorce first, you choose where to file. If more than one court has jurisdiction over the divorce, you can choose which gives you a better advantage during the divorce. 

An experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer can help you choose which jurisdiction would be best for your divorce based on their knowledge of the divorce courts throughout the state.

First To Argue Your Case in Court

When you file for divorce first, you are the first person to present your case in court. Presenting your case first could be advantageous if you know your divorce will be contested. It positions your spouse to defend themselves and respond to allegations. 

You can then rebut allegations from your spouse instead of being on the defensive.

Preserving the Status Quo

If child custody is an issue in your divorce, filing first allows you to maintain the status quo. You can argue that it is best for your children to remain in the marital home with you for continuity and stability. 

You can also argue against your spouse changing your children’s lives because it would be disruptive during a difficult time for them.

More Time To Prepare

When you file first, you choose the timing of the divorce filing. As soon as you consider filing for divorce, you can contact a Bergen County divorce lawyer. You and your attorney can take the time to develop a strategy that gives you the best chance of achieving your goals for a divorce settlement. 

If you are filing on fault grounds, this also gives you time to gather evidence to prove fault.

Protect Assets and Income

When you file for divorce, marital assets are subject to property division. Filing first gives you the advantage of establishing the separation date. Therefore, you can plan the best time to file for divorce based on your finances and future assets.

Are There Disadvantages of Filing for Divorce First in Bergen County, NJ?

Each divorce is unique. Therefore, a divorce attorney may advise you to wait to file. A couple of disadvantages of filing for divorce first include:

Payment of Filing Fees and Expenses

When you file for divorce first, you must pay the filing fee to the court to open a divorce case. Your spouse does not have to pay a fee to file a response to divorce papers. You also have to pay to serve the divorce appears on your spouse, whereas your spouse can send their response to your attorney for the amount of regular postage.

You Lose the Element of Surprise

When you file for divorce, your divorce papers include the relief you seek for child custody, child support, property division, and spousal support. Your spouse knows what you will ask for a divorce settlement. 

They can hold their cards close to their chest until they wish to reveal their proposed terms for divorce. Filing first gives your spouse time to consider their options before responding to the divorce complaint.

Should I File for Divorce First in Bergen County, NJ?

Whether you should file first or allow your spouse to file for divorce depends on the unique circumstances of your divorce. You can learn whether filing for divorce first would benefit you by contacting a divorce lawyer for a free consultation.

Contact the Bergen County Family and Divorce Law Firm of Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers for more help

Contact the experienced family attorneys at Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers today for legal assistance. Visit our law office in Bergen County or give us a call at (201) 487-1199 to schedule a free consultation with our team.

Bergen County Law Office
1 University Plaza Dr #400, Hackensack, NJ 07601, United States