Divorce: Does Filing First Matter?

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Divorce: Does Filing First Matter?
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 12/21/2020

There is no such thing as a simple divorce in Washington. Even in cases where both parties agree to every term, the documentation required to properly file and execute a divorce can be daunting. Procedural flaws often lead to major delays and added cost. So, when you add in substantive disputes, divorce practice in Washington can be even more complicated. One of the first questions attorneys are asked is – Does it matter if we file the divorce before my spouse?

The very lawyer answer is that it depends. In the majority of situations, whether you file first or get served with the divorce filing, the process is very similar. The filing party works with an attorney to prepare the divorce Petition along with other documents required in Washington. Those documents are then signed, filed with the Court, and served on the other spouse. Once served, the other partner must file a Response to the Petition within 20-days. Failure to respond in a timely manner may lead to a court order placing the responding party in default.

If you and your spouse are amicable and agree to move forward with the divorce, filing first really does not matter. Most of the BLOGPOST_DoesItMatter.jpgtime, you will agree to many of the terms and whether you file or respond ultimately leads to the same settlement negotiations. Even if you and your spouse do not necessarily agree of the terms of the divorce, as long as you both agree that you want a divorce the standard process does not change. In either situation, their will be a Petition, a Response, and negotiation.
Divorce filing timing may matter in three situations.

• First – if your spouse’s whereabouts are unknown, filing first will allow you to start the 90-day divorce clock. It will also allow you to move more quickly to investigate the partner’s location and request an order of default from the court. If the spouse is still missing, a default may allow you to finalize your divorce in 90-days without your spouse’s involvement.

• Second – if your spouse refuses to accept that divorce is inevitable. In this situation, filing and serving the divorce will either prompt a realization that the marriage is over, or the spouse will ignore the proceedings and you can move forward with a default.

• Third – if your spouse is controlling. If your spouse is an overconfident type-A or manipulative, filing for divorce can help you shed submissive stereotypes. Filing for divorce shows that you are serious and are not willing to be manipulated in the court proceedings.

Of course, there is no perfect answer to this question, and often the timing of the filing may not matter regardless of the situation. If you are interested in moving forward with a divorce proceeding in Washington – whether or not with children – you must learn your rights and responsibilities to ensure the best outcome. The law offices of Magnuson Lowell, PS works with clients of all varieties and provides creative, alternative solutions to help finalize your divorce equitably. Call today for a free case evaluation with one of our experienced attorneys.


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