What Happens if My Husband Files for Divorce First?

Updated on January 5, 2024
Updated: November 29, 2023

You might be wondering "what happens if my husband files for divorce first?" If your husband files for divorce first, then the divorce process will begin and the court or a mediator will have to decide on all matters that need to be addressed. This includes things such as custody of your children, division of marital assets and marital property, alimony or spousal support if applicable, and other matters related to the dissolution of the marriage.

If your spouse has initiated divorce proceedings, consider seeking advice from Illinois divorce lawyers at Tommalieh Law.

Contact Tommalieh Law's experienced divorce attorneys at 708-232-0017 for a free case evaluation! 

Is there a difference in the outcome if my husband files for divorce first?

There are some strategic advantages to filing divorce papers first, but it does not guarantee success or superiority over the other spouse. Filing divorce paperwork first can give the filer more control over certain aspects of the proceedings, such as choosing the county and when to trigger the process. This wider selection of counties can be helpful for distance or convenience.

Filing a divorce petition first also allows more time for research compared to waiting for the other spouse. Serving your spouse with a divorce petition through a process server can provide leverage in settlement talks by indicating your commitment.

Filing the original petition for an uncontested divorce first should be considered strategically, as it can have advantages in cases involving domestic violence.

Husband separated from wife and children.

Starting the divorce filing process can have advantages

Planning for a divorce can help ease the transition for couples. It allows them to take a proactive approach and regain control over the process. By evaluating legal representation options and coming up with a legal process plan, they increase their chances of obtaining a favorable outcome from the court.

Filing first also gives them greater choice in selecting local experienced divorce attorneys and other resources. This advantage greatly increases their chances of success in negotiations for minor children custody disputes, personal property, financial assets, division of property, retirement accounts, credit cards, life insurance policies, and for any proceedings that follow.


The person who files for divorce first can have an advantage in terms of timing. This is because they can determine how certain issues will be addressed before the process begins. For example, they may have already secured their financial interests or established their custodial rights as a parent.

They also get to decide where the divorce proceedings will take place. This could affect how certain family law matters are addressed, especially if one spouse lives in a different state.

Lastly, filing first can help the filing spouse choose a law firm with experienced family law attorneys.

Choosing Your Battleground

If your husband files for divorce first, it's important not to be overwhelmed with emotions. Your next decision can set the tone for the entire process, so you must understand the legal implications. Consider whether filing a response first is beneficial and where you should file. Understanding the legalities can help you make informed decisions that benefit you.


If your husband files for a legal separation before you, you'll need to gather information to make a decision. This includes understanding your rights and responsibilities, and those of your spouse. Talking to a family law specialist can help guide you on the next steps.

To prepare, gather all relevant documents such as marriage certificates, bank accounts, communication records, property deeds, financial records, and tax returns. This will help ensure both parties are clear on who owns what assets or liabilities.

Methods for preventing asset concealment by a spouse.

During divorce proceedings, it's crucial to be aware of the potential for your spouse to conceal assets. Some spouses may hide assets to avoid dividing them during the process.

If your husband initiates the divorce, take steps to prevent him from hiding valuable assets. Make sure you have copies of all financial documents, like tax returns, credit card bills, bank statements, major purchases, distribution of assets, and investment accounts. Watch for suspicious activity, such as large cash withdrawals or transfers to unknown accounts.

If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, take action.

Some potential drawbacks exist when initiating a divorce filing

Filing for divorce before one's spouse has both advantages and disadvantages. The filing party gains a major move in that they have more control over the process, such as selecting a preferred choice of jurisdiction and establishing the terms of the divorce. You may also gain an upper hand in negotiations.

If you file second, your spouse may already have control. However, filing first in the proper jurisdiction can be emotionally draining and stressful.

You Show Your Hand

Filing for divorce before your spouse may impact the outcome of property division, child custody, child support, and other related matters. It is important to approach responding to a divorce petition with careful consideration.

You Pay More

Filing for divorce first can make you pay more. Your husband may have an advantage in setting terms for the settlement, possibly getting more assets or custody of your children. He may also get a larger share of selling your marital home. Responding to the petition may mean more court fees and costs. If he hires a family law firm team and you don't, you may be at a disadvantage during negotiations.

What reasons can a husband cite to initiate divorce proceedings?

If a husband files for divorce first, it is important to understand the grounds for doing so to determine how best to proceed. In most states, a husband can file for divorce on any of the following grounds:

1. Adultery: If your husband believes that you have cheated or been unfaithful, he may file for divorce on this basis. This requires proof that you had a sexual relationship with someone other than your husband.

2. Family violence: If your husband believes that you have been cruel or abusive toward him, he may file for divorce on this basis. This requires proof of physical or emotional abuse in the marriage.

3. Desertion: If your husband believes that you have deserted him by leaving the marital home without his permission, he may file for divorce on this basis. This requires proof that you have left the home without his consent and without any intention of returning.

4. Irreconcilable Differences: In many states, your husband can file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. This is when both spouses agree that they are unable to make their marriage work and want to end it.

5. Mental Illness: If there is a belief that a mental illness prevents a couple from living together, the husband may file for divorce with proof of diagnosis from a qualified medical professional.

Husband and wife holding a broken heart.

Is it legally permissible for one spouse to initiate divorce proceedings without informing the other spouse?

Filing for divorce without informing the other spouse is possible, but not recommended. In some states, the law requires notice of the petition to be given or the other party's signature on an acknowledgment of service.

If one spouse files without informing the other, the court may ask for evidence of notice delivery. The other spouse will usually be given more time and opportunity to respond if they were not initially served with notice.

Call Tommalieh Law Today for a Free Consultation!

Are you worried about what will happen if your husband files for divorce first? You may be uncertain of your rights and how the process works. Don't worry, Tommalieh Law is here to help. We have a team of experienced family law attorneys and can provide you with a free consultation to discuss your case and explain your rights and options.

During the consultation, our divorce team will also provide you with relevant information and advice on how to best handle the situation. Contact us today at (708) 232-0017 or online to schedule your free consultation.


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