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Should You Move First to File For a Divorce in California?

January 07, 2023

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File For a Divorce in California

Unlike falling in love, you cannot pin down growing apart to one big, momentous moment. It happens gradually. Without both sides even realizing it, a huge chasm might occur between the spouses over time.

If you and your spouse have been trying to patch up but feel that your marriage is beyond redemption, you might want to consider divorce as a grim but sensible option. It is undeniably a tough choice, and you may be hesitant as you do not want to make a hurried decision that you could end up repenting later.

Your reluctance may also stem from your lack of knowledge of the divorce process. But if you both see no future for your marriage, it may be prudent to file for a divorce. The pertinent question is: who should make the first move to file for divorce?

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Importance of Filing for Divorce First in California and the Ensuing Benefits

Although a California court of law treats the information material submitted by both parties similarly, there are certain benefits of filing for divorce before your spouse does. Let us look at some of these benefits:

Legal Benefits

If you file the divorce petition first, you stand to gain the benefit of being able to obtain an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order. This order preempts any financial moves on the part of your spouse as well as you and is part of the Summons you file with the Court and serve on your spouse. Both you and your spouse cannot:

  • Change beneficiaries on life insurance policies and retirement accounts
  • Sell or transfer the property, or borrow against it
  • Change bank accounts

You must make sure that you are the first to file for divorce, especially if you believe that your spouse is trying or will try to conceal information regarding assets. And you also need to work with an experienced divorce attorney who is competent enough to deal with such maneuvers by your spouse.

By filing before your spouse does, you also get the benefit of presenting the case in court first. This can be a big reversal for your spouse if they are intent on keeping their tactics secret.

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Financial Benefits

If you file for divorce first, you have the time to prepare yourself financially, including having access to and being able to gather important documents, like:

  • Bank account and investment statements
  • Life insurance policies
  • Deeds and wills
  • Titles to property

This financial information can prove crucial in the division of property during the proceedings. This first-mover advantage also ensures your access to funds and credit cards that you may need to pay for your divorce.

If you and your spouse are not on the best of terms with each other, it can become difficult to access the important documents once the divorce proceedings are underway in court. When you file first, you get ample time and opportunity to take stock of the collective finances and verify the extent of your debts and assets, held jointly and separately by both of you.

Use the Element of Surprise to Your Advantage

You can catch your spouse off-guard and gain the upper hand if you file for divorce first. In a less than amicable breakup where you fear retribution from your ex, the element of surprise can work to your advantage.

Filing first also gives you a head start to examine all your legal options and work with a divorce attorney to formulate your legal strategy. You can initiate steps to collect all the evidence, including statements and documents that you would require during your divorce proceedings.

People Likely to Benefit Specifically from Filing First

Typically, there are obvious benefits for anyone filing first for divorce in California, but you stand to benefit even more in a divorce case if:

  • your spouse is abusive, volatile, or tries to control you and your children
  • your spouse does not live in the house anymore and does not help in paying the bills
  • your spouse has forced you to move out of the house and does not allow you to see your children
  • your spouse has some behavioral issues that can put you and your children at risk

Talk to a California Divorce Attorney to File Your Divorce

Even after having made up your mind to separate, you may have doubts about filing for divorce. If you do feel ready, you need to do the groundwork in collecting relevant information so you are well-prepared to take the step.

If you feel it is impossible to salvage your relationship with your spouse, get in touch with a California divorce attorney to discuss your circumstances. An experienced divorce attorney can suggest options and help you select the course of action best suited for your situation.

File First and Empower Yourself

The law will allow your spouse an opportunity to present their case in response to your divorce petition. However, filing your complaint first will empower you and will ensure that you set the pace in the proceedings in what could be a long-drawn and arduous legal battle.

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Call Pinkham & Associates Now for a Free Family Law Consultation

If you are ready to hire an experienced and dedicated divorce and family law attorney in Orange County, California, call Pinkham & Associates now to speak to Doug Pinkham personally. Your initial consultation is free, and we will be happy to provide some free legal advice and help you determine whether we are indeed the right family law firm to represent you.