Who Should First

The Race to The Courthouse Steps

The old phrase “race to the courthouse steps” comes to mind when I hear this question.  Often people believe that they need to be the first to file because it gives them some sort of legal advantage, but is this true?  Well, the answer

is a bit more complicated that that, but it could help, even if just a bit. In Missouri, there’s no real “legal” advantage to filing before your spouse, but there can be some personal and strategic advantages. In fact, if done properly, most of the time the responding spouse is going to also file a Petition for Dissolution as well as part of their Response, hence you’re both filing really.

Time to Plan

It may sound odd, but at a moment like this, divorcing spouses need time, time to think, time to plan, time to build.  Going through the separation and divorce process is both physically and emotionally draining, not to mention financially devastating. Filing first, when you are ready allows for a bit of control and planned understanding, rather than being served with papers and being under a time crunch to respond. You’ll want time to prepare for what is to come, for living separately, for maintaining financial stability, and for moving on after the legal work is complete.

Choice of Attorney

You’ll also want time to interview and chose the right attorney to help you out along the way.  Not all attorneys are created equal, and you should interview several looking for someone that is not only in your budget but that you can relate to and rely on.  Your attorney should be your teammate in this process, your advocate, and your guidance.  That takes time.  It has often been said that “not every attorney is the right attorney for every client, and not every client is the right client for every attorney”, it has to be a good fit built on trust and relationship. Choose wisely!


The Required Paperwork

In addition, you’ll be asked to gather several documents for the initial filing in a divorce proceeding.  Many of these are financial documents such as proof of income, proof of values for assets, and proof of debt,  Other documents may concern the children’s expenses, medical financial records, grades, living arrangements, and the like. The task can be long and tedious, and again, this takes time. It’s best not to rush and you want to be as thorough and complete as possible.


Choice of Forum

In addition to allowing you time to prepare and adjust, you may also benefit from having your choice of court.  Are you living in a different state or county than your spouse?  Where did you want the case to be?  Filing first can give you that choice and perhaps, that advantage.


Making The Statement

Most importantly, filing first is a substantial step.  Who should file first?  You, if it’s right for you.  It’s that act that signifies that the time has come.  It’s that first step toward taking action and the signal to the other spouse, maybe a spouse who has delayed or simply “waited to see” that the time is now.  Many see this as a declaration, the time has come.   If you have any questions about divorce or specifically the filing of a divorce petition, give me a call.  I’d be happy to discuss the options with you.  


Markwell Law, LLC
1031 Peruque Crossing Ct, Ste. B
O’Fallon, MO 63366
Phone: 636-486-1093
Fax: 636-634-3462

About the author 

Guss Markwell

Originally from St. Louis Missouri, I grew up in a strong Midwest and moral family who taught me right from wrong and to stand up for my rights and the rights of others. In these tough economic times, you need an advocate on your side. Why do I practice law? Often, people are facing seemingly insurmountable opposition with little or no ability to overcome great odds. It is my position that we should all be fighting for those who find themselves alone, afraid, and at times unpopular. I subscribe to the notion that a society should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. I represent, and I fight for, those people. “There is light at the end of that tunnel, don’t stop.”

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