When it comes to divorce, most men would like to delay for as long as possible. There are circumstances in which this is a good strategy, but for the most part, delay can be deadly when it comes to protecting your assets and your children. According to some experts, there is little to be gained from delay once the “d-word” has been uttered.
There is an old saying in the legal field: “He who files first, files best.” Of course, like all “rules,” this one has exceptions. It is not always necessary to file first to “win” a legal argument. On the other hand, filing for divorce sets off a chain of events that may well determine the final outcome of the case.
How Does Filing First Help My Divorce Case?
Simply put, the person who files the divorce case becomes the plaintiff or the person who is pursuing the divorce. However, unlike other civil matters, a divorce plaintiff is not required to “prove” anything. California has no-fault divorce, meaning that all a plaintiff must do is assert irreconcilable differences to obtain a divorce. There is also no way, in a no-fault divorce, for the defendant to “fight” the divorce; ultimately, it will be granted if the plaintiff pursues it.
Therefore, it might seem that it would not matter who files first. Legally, there is not much difference between being plaintiff or defendant in a divorce case in California. However, there is a very big practical difference that should be considered by anyone who is thinking about delaying a divorce filing.
- It gives your spouse time to plan. It is natural that your first instinct upon separation may be to wait, hoping she will “come back.” Instead, what your delay may do is give her time to hire an attorney and convince herself she is entitled to your assets, while a quick filing may encourage her to settle quickly.
- It involves family and friends. A quick split may be painful but it can also be preferable to a long, dragged-out procedure during which family and friends are forced to take sides.
- It involves children. Children suffer much more from a protracted and bitter separation than from a quick end to the marriage with a new and enforceable set of rules.
- It may ruin chances of a quick settlement. Overall, quick settlements happen when the other party knows that there is no room for negotiation with the plaintiff. A plaintiff who is “wishy-washy” about filing opens himself to a long, protracted legal battle.
A family law attorney can explain the value of filing and help you decide if it is the right move for you.