While there is no need to “race to the courthouse” in Colorado, there are many benefits to filing for a divorce first.
There are several advantages to filing for a divorce first, though they are not what people often think about.
I. Financial Benefits of Filing First
When I say financial advantages, I mean those things that will ultimately help you come out of your divorce in a far better financial position. These include:
- Assembling and consulting with your legal team;
- Gathering your documents;
- Ensuring access to funds and credit; and
- Preventing the hiding or transferring of assets by your spouse.
A. Assembling Your Legal Team
The value of having time to meet with several attorneys and pick the one you are most comfortable with cannot be overstated. Doing this not only provides a certain level of confidence, it places you in a proactive instead of reactive position. In other words, you are not scrambling to find a lawyer and are, instead, taking care of the issues before you. Additionally, if your attorney believes there are certain concerns which may harm your case, you can get advice on the best way to correct them and begin doing so.
B. Gathering Documents
Like taxes, the documents needed for a divorce are numerous and sometimes appear never-ending. Some examples of documents you’ll need are bank account statements, credit card statements, mortgage statements, retirement account statements, business account statements or ledgers, past tax-returns, wills, trusts, insurance policies, lists of real property, lists of any significant jewelry or artwork, etc. Put simply, gathering this much information takes time. And by planning to file first, you will be gathering all of this (and more) information in advance.
C. Ensuring Access to Funds
One of the first things a spouse sometimes does when presented with divorce paperwork is attempt to cut off access to funds. Because of this, it is critical to set aside sufficient money to pay for your living and legal expenses. Additionally, if you do not have a credit card in just your name (and you really should), this will provide you the time needed to correct that. By putting yourself in a proactive position, you will ensure your future well-being and you can concentrate solely on the issues in the divorce.
D. Prevent the Hiding and Transfer of Assets
When a divorce is filed, several automatic injunctions are put into place. These orders are intended to prevent, among other things, the transferring or hiding of assets. As such, the court is more likely to see the true value of the marital estate and, importantly, your portion of it. Further, if you have children, these automatic injunctions prevent the removal of the children from the state absent your consent or a court order.
II. Legal Benefits to Filing First
In addition to the financial benefits of filing first, there are also some legal benefits.
When you are the first to file for divorce, you are generally choosing where the case will be heard and decided. Importantly, if the two parties live in different states, you’ll want to check local laws to determine, with your attorney, where it would be most beneficial to file the case. This is because the venue (i.e., where the case is filed) can make a big difference in the outcome.
B. You won’t be “conflicted out.”
One trick commonly used by a disgruntled spouse is to meet with multiple attorneys in the area to prevent them from representing the other party because they are now conflicted from doing so. By getting your legal team in place as discussed above, you prevent this “tactic.”
C. Presenting Your Case First
As the petitioner, you will get to present your case to the judge first. This has numerous benefits, including setting the stage and tone for the case. However, one down side is that you will reveal your strategy to the opposing side. So, while this is often a benefit, it is also something you will want to discuss with your attorney. And you can – because you will have lined him or her up in advance.
If you are considering divorce and have questions, please feel free to give my firm a call. All initial consultations are free and I’d welcome the chance to discuss your case with you.