What Happens if My Wife Files for Divorce First?

Updated on January 15, 2024
Updated: November 29, 2023

The divorce process starts when one spouse files for divorce. They must serve the other party with a summons and petition for dissolution of marriage. The other party has thirty days to respond.

You might be wondering, "what happens if my wife files for divorce first?" If the wife files for divorce first, she is considered the "petitioner" and is in charge of presenting the divorce petition to the court. The other spouse is the "respondent" and must respond to the summons and petition.

If your spouse has initiated divorce proceedings, Tommalieh Law divorce lawyers can offer professional legal guidance. Contact us today for a free consultation.

It is important to understand that while filing for divorce first may have strategic advantages it does not guarantee your wife will win her case. However, she did give herself a few benefits by filing first. She has started setting deadlines that must be met for certain stages of the process and likely has a solid plan in place.

For these reasons, it is important to act quickly and catch up on the timeline to make sure you are represented fairly in this situation. Tommalieh Laws' experienced divorce attorneys can advise you on how best to proceed if your wife has already begun the filing process.

If your wife has filed for divorce first, talk to a divorce lawyer at Tommalieh Law to learn more about your rights. Call today at (708) 232-0017 to schedule your free consultation!

What is the process following the serving of divorce papers to a spouse?

The start of a legal process that decides the outcome of a marriage is marked by divorce papers. The specifics of the case and state laws determine the outcome.

When served divorce paperwork, the spouse must respond within a certain timeframe. Failure to respond can indicate agreement with the allegations. Financial statements, life insurance policies, financial assets, physical assets, bank account info, marital property agreements, retirement accounts, and other documents may be required to determine property division.

Your spouse has the chance to contest the petition or file a counterclaim to dispute certain aspects when filing for divorce. They may also request temporary relief such as alimony or child support if necessary.

It's important to remember that in family law matters being the first to file does not guarantee a favorable outcome, but being aware of the entire divorce process can help you prepare for what's ahead.

Wife filing for divorce from husband in an office with lawyer holding a divorce decree.

Advantages of initiating divorce proceedings

In divorce cases, filing first can offer some advantages in terms of control over the case, similar to holding serve in tennis, as it allows for the opportunity to file before any disputes may arise.

Filing first also has other benefits, such as protecting assets and assigning responsibility early on if your partner has been unfaithful or hidden marital assets. It also gives you an advantage in dealing with financial orders, such as spousal maintenance payments, from the start of the separation. Ultimately, this means resolving financial ties sooner and avoiding lengthy complex divorce court battles.


Filing for divorce first allows you to control the timing of the process. This can work in your favor and force your spouse to react. Be careful not to make any unethical moves as they may come back to haunt you later.

Once your spouse is served with divorce papers, they have 20 days to respond. If they fail to do so, it can result in a default divorce, but this may not be a wise choice. Controlling the start of the process is only beneficial if everything else in the entire process goes smoothly.

The Element of Surprise

Being surprised by a divorce can be disheartening and alarming for some couples who didn't expect it to happen, but for others, it may give them an advantage if they were already aware of their irreconcilable differences and marriage issues leading in that direction or had started planning for it in advance by hiring a divorce attorney, and so on.

Being mentally prepared for a divorce, even if unexpected, can provide benefits such as the court issuing a Joint Preliminary Injunction (JPI) to facilitate compliance with court rules and offer financial security for the future, depending on individual circumstances.


Before filing for divorce, it's important to prepare yourself by taking the necessary steps. Filing first allows up to 20 days to gather financial records and evidence in case of a temporary child custody battle. This gives an advantage throughout the court process.

It's recommended to become financially prepared before submitting legal documents. A steady income or credit can better manage finances during a tough transition. Starting a job or getting a new credit card may save money and heartache in the long run.

Potential drawbacks of initiating a divorce filing

Choosing to file for divorce first can come with potential disadvantages and be overwhelming. Research shows no significant advantages. Previous divorcees have reported negative consequences from taking the initiative.

Filing first can create hostility in divorce situations that could affect negotiations for property and custody. Your spouse may refuse to cooperate in key issues, even if it's in the best interest of minor children. If your spouse files a competing Petition for Divorce, it can lead to procedural delays and long child custody disputes.

Filing grounds for divorce first can also impact the possession of removed items from the shared home, as some states may consider them jointly owned.

Revealing Your Plan

When filing for divorce, you must present your demands to the court through a Complaint for Divorce. This serves as your "wish list" or "Plan of Action" for what you want out of the marriage's dissolution.

Negotiation is necessary for both parties to agree on the terms. It's suggested to ask for more than what is wanted to allow room for compromise. Sensible and considerate demands are important for yourself and your family. Asking for too much or too little doesn't necessarily influence the outcome.

Working out details with a skilled divorce attorney beforehand can prevent surprises during negotiations. Each situation should be discussed thoroughly as every divorce situation is unique.

You Pay More

When filing for divorce first, expect to pay for a process server, this filing fee costs around $100. The process server serves the Complaint to your spouse, allowing the divorce proceedings to continue.

The other person does not need a process server for their response; they can mail it back to the court or directly to you and/or your attorney. Proof of both parties' awareness of the divorce proceedings is necessary for the court.

Hiring a process server serves as evidence that the service was completed correctly.

Husband and wife arguing in divorce attorney's office.

Can you provide information about the proceedings during the final divorce hearing?

The final hearing of a divorce marks the end of the process. All aspects of the divorce have been settled by this point. The hearing takes place in court and both parties must attend. Each party presents its settlement agreement to the judge for approval. The judge may have questions or want to hear from both parties before making a ruling.

Once satisfied, the judge issues a divorce decree. This document legally ends the marriage and outlines the terms of the divorce. The judge signs off on the decree and the divorce is finalized.

For a Free Consultation Call Tommalieh Law Today!

If your wife files for divorce first, you must take the time to understand your rights and legal options. A divorce can be a complex and emotionally overwhelming process, so it is essential to have an experienced attorney on your side. Tommalieh Law's experienced family law attorneys provide free consultations to help clients understand their legal rights during a divorce.

Tommalieh Law's goal is to provide excellent legal services while ensuring that our clients receive the best possible outcome. We will work with you throughout every step of your divorce to ensure that you understand your rights and can make informed decisions.

Tommalieh Law is well-versed in the intricacies of family law and is dedicated to safeguarding your rights during a divorce, ensuring you get a just result in court. Reach out to us at (708) 232-0017 for a free consultation.


Text Us
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram