Legally speaking, it typically doesn’t matter who files first in a divorce in Arizona. This is a no-fault state, which means that if one spouse decides that they want to get a divorce, they don’t have to prove that the other spouse did something to warrant the dissolution of their marriage. They can simply start the process.
In Arizona, it doesn’t matter whether you are the petitioner who files for the divorce and fills out the initial paperwork or if you are the person who received the paperwork, known as the respondent. This is because they are the ones who are responding to the petition for divorce.
Is There Ever An Advantage to Filing First?
Even though it shouldn’t matter who files first, as long as you have a good attorney, you’ll find that there could be some advantages to filing first. Let’s take a look at some of those potential benefits.
The Last Word
The petitioner is the first person to present their entire case when going to trial. The respondent will have a chance to present their entire case afterward. After the respondent, the petitioner will have another opportunity to provide any rebuttal evidence to what the respondent presented.
Why is this considered an advantage to filing first? It means that the petitioner will be the one who has the last thing to say before the judge makes their decision. While this will not always make a difference, there are times that it could.
Determine Where the Case Will Be Heard
Most of the time, spouses are living in the same county when they are going through a divorce. This means that there will never be a dispute as to where the case will be heard. However, if you and your spouse don’t live in the same county or the same state, the person who files will determine where the divorce will be heard since they will file in the county where they live.
If your spouse is not living with you and is residing in a state where the divorce laws would favor them, by filing first, you get to have what is essentially a home-field advantage. It’s also easier in terms of travel and logistics for you if you can have the case heard near where you live rather than across the county or country.
When you file for divorce first, it can also provide you with some protection for your assets and help to reduce the debt that you might otherwise owe. If you have a spouse that’s spending recklessly or that you feel might try to sell off property and take the money so it can’t be split in the divorce, it’s considering who files first in a divorce.
When you do, the courts will issue a preliminary injunction. This could help you to limit your liability for community debt that could have been accrued if you didn’t, and it can stop them from selling community property. Any debts that your spouse runs up after the papers are served will be theirs to pay, not yours.
Should You File?
If you are at the point where you feel your marriage can’t be saved and that you do not want to reconcile with your ex, then you may want to file. As mentioned, it doesn’t necessarily provide you with a legal benefit, but it could provide you with those advantages outlined above.
Are you worried that your spouse might be trying to hide money or sell items to get some extra money? Do you worry that they are going to try to run up a lot of debt, knowing that you will have to pay for half of it if you decide that you want to file for a divorce after they spend? It might be a good idea to file first.
Do You Need an Attorney to File?
You have the option to file your divorce paperwork on your own if you choose. You can find the divorce forms through the county where you live and then follow the instructions to fill them out. However, if you aren’t sure how to proceed, and you need to be sure it’s all done correctly, you can get some help from an attorney or a document preparer.
Even though you do not need to have a divorce lawyer file your paperwork or help you respond to a petition for divorce that you receive, you might want to have an attorney for the rest of your case.
If you are at the point where you are worried about your assets and what your ex will be doing, it typically means that it’s not going to be a simple uncontested divorce. There is the potential for quite a bit of conflict. In cases like these, and whenever there are children involved, it’s a good idea to start working with an attorney sooner rather than later.
Sometimes, you might have a relatively small budget and you might not feel that you can afford an attorney. In those cases, consider working with a lawyer on a limited-scope basis. You can only pay for the services that you use rather than hiring them for the entire divorce. You may be able to save thousands using this method.
Is there ever a time when you don’t need to have a divorce attorney at all? If you have a simple uncontested divorce with no assets and no children, and you and your spouse both agree on what should happen, then there’s no need for an attorney. These are simple cases, but they tend to be rare.
Find an Attorney
Are you at the point where you want to file or you’ve already filed? Maybe you’ve just received the paperwork and aren’t sure how to respond. No matter where you are in the divorce process, you’ll want to make sure that you have proper representation. Find an attorney in your area with experience and a great reputation.