Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Florida?

Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Florida?

Usually, a divorce happens between a couple that’s had a series of issues over a long period of time. Other times, changing circumstances or conditions make the marriage no longer feasible for either side. For many spouses, making the difficult decision to file for divorce can feel overwhelming.

In Florida, there is no legal advantage to filing for divorce first, with the person filing for divorce (known as the petitioner) getting no preferential treatment from the judge. Likewise, the spouse that has to respond to the divorce filing is known as the respondent, and also receives no preferential treatment from the court. Judges in Florida are required to consider both sides of a divorce fairly and equally.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t advantages and disadvantages to filing for a divorce first in Florida. Understanding these benefits and drawbacks can make the decision of whether or not to file first for divorce much clearer.

Support From an Experienced Florida Divorce Attorney

Filing for a divorce is an extremely emotional process. Once you finally make the decision to go ahead with filing, several things will change. Financial situations, living conditions, and custody of children are all considerations to make when deciding whether or not to file for a divorce in Florida. To make this process easier, our experienced Florida divorce attorneys at Robert Sparks Attorneys can guide you. We have years of experience in helping clients prepare for and ultimately make the decision to initiate divorce proceedings.

We offer free, no obligation consultations for any potential client in Florida, so contact us if you are considering filing for divorce from your spouse.

Florida Divorce Law

When it comes to the law regarding divorce, Florida is a “no-fault” state. This means that if a couple seeks a divorce, it is not necessary for either side to allege any wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse. Instead, one must simply show the court the marriage is “irretrievaly broken.”

Thus, the reasons for filing for divorce do not enter into any decisions or considerations the court makes when presiding over a divorce case. As a result, it also doesn’t matter who files for divorce first. Procedurally, the spouse that files first has to pay the filing fee to file the complaint and initiate the proceedings, and the other spouse has 20 days to answer. Failing to answer the complaint will mean that a default judgment will be entered.

Advantages and Disadvantages to Filing For Divorce First in Florida

Obviously, filing for divorce before your spouse does puts you in control of the proceedings, at least initially. But there are other advantages–as well as disadvantages–to filing for divorce first in Florida.



  • More time to prepare – Even if you’ve been considering filing for divorce for a while, actually going through with it means that the divorce case will move at your pace. This will allow you time to get your finances and living situation in order, and make sure you have all of the necessary documentation and paperwork gathered.


  • Protecting finances – Another big advantage to filing for divorce first in Florida is being able to protect your finances. When you file for divorce, it establishes a separation date at which point any property or finances that isn’t jointly owned becomes officially separated. Thus, you can protect your finances and property that you own, while also avoiding taking on any of your spouse’s debt.


  • Emotional closure – Sometimes, you just want your marriage to end, especially if it has been contentious or even abusive. Filing for divorce first can be empowering for you and helps you find emotional closure more quickly. The sooner you remove yourself from an unhealthy or dangerous situation, the quicker you can begin healing emotionally, physically, and psychologically.



  • Ending the marriage – No matter how bad a marriage has become, filing for divorce officially ends the relationship. This is usually an emotional and highly-charged step for a couple, and it could lead to some hard feelings that will need to be worked through as negotiations and settlement meetings take place.


  • Element of surprise – Filing for divorce first, even if your spouse knows you’re going to, can show your hand early in divorce proceedings. This can give your spouse time to try to hide assets or property, and can also factor into alimony or child support decisions depending on the duration of your marriage.


  • Expenses – In order to actually file your divorce complaint, you’ll need to pay a filing fee. In Florida, the cost of filing a divorce complaint is $409. On top of that, divorce attorneys typically charge an hourly rate for any representation or counsel they provide you.


Work with Experienced Florida Divorce Attorneys

At Robert Sparks Attorneys, we know how emotional and difficult filing for divorce can be. Not only are you ending a marriage, but you are also causing a huge shift in your and your spouse’s way of life. Not to mention, if you have children, their life will change also. As such, we don’t take the decision to file for divorce lightly, and can help you through this emotional process with experienced and compassionate guidance.

If you are thinking of filing for divorce in Florida, contact us today for a free consultation.