When to file (or not file) divorce papers

Some divorce lawyers recommend that their clients file their divorce petition as soon as they initiate divorce proceedings, thinking it is better to file a petition than to respond to one. Other the other hand, unless you have specific reasons why you need to file your petition now, jumping the gun can backfire.

The way you file for a dissolution of marriage can set the tone for the rest of your divorce. Having a deputy from your county sheriff’s department deliver a divorce petition to an unsuspecting spouse can seem confrontational to say the least. It is likely to trigger an equally confrontational response.

In Florida, the paper you file to obtain a divorce is called the “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” The person filing for divorce is the “petitioner,” and the other spouse is the “respondent.” However, there is no particular advantage in being the petitioner or the respondent. Being the petitioner can work against you if you and your spouse have not discussed all of the issues in your divorce. All issues you want the court to address should be listed in your petition.

If a divorce is in your future, you and your spouse have a choice about how you proceed. You can do so cooperatively or collaboratively with the goal of reaching an out-of-court settlement. An out-of-court settlement is less costly and less stressful that a litigated divorce. It can also help preserves family relationships.

A litigated divorce is rarely in either party’s best interests. It will result in the wasting of assets you and your ex will need to maintain two separate households. It may also result in lasting bitterness.

There are times when you will need to file your petition as soon as possible. For example, you may need specific protections, such as an order to prevent a spouse from disposing of assets. If you have specific concerns, you should discuss those with your attorney.

If you and your spouse have agreed on property division, neither spouse is asking for alimony, and you have no children under 18, you and your spouse may be able to file a petition for a “simplified dissolution of marriage.”

Sheldon E. Finman, P.A., is a family law attorney in Fort Myers who helps his clients seek seeks less adversarial ways to dissolve a marriage.

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