Divorce is an emotionally fraught time. Most spouses agonize over the decision before choosing to move forward. Once a divorce is inevitable, many spouses wonder if they should race to the courthouse to be the first to file, or if it’s better to let their spouse file the divorce petition first. Does it matter in Colorado who files for the divorce first? The answer is no—or at least it doesn’t matter to the judge and it doesn’t mean that one spouse is the “good guy” in the divorce and the other one the “bad guy” since Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. Filing first does not have a direct impact on the outcome of the divorce terms; however, a spouse seeking a divorce should know that there could be some subtle advantages to being the first to file.
The First to File for Divorce in Colorado is the Petitioner in the Process
If you file for divorce first in Colorado, you become the “petitioner” and your spouse is the “respondent” in the divorce process. The petitioner typically seeks representation by a Denver divorce attorney who draws up the petition with the petitioning spouse’s requested divorce terms. The respondent has 21 days after they’re served with the petition to file their response either agreeing with the terms in an uncontested divorce or disputing one or more terms in a contested divorce. A contested divorce requires a hearing so the judge can decide on resolutions for all disputed terms.
Does the Petitioner in a Colorado Divorce Have an Advantage?
Besides the advantage of being the first to draft the terms of the divorce agreement, being the petitioner does have several advantages that could benefit some spouses. These benefits include the following:
- The ability to set the timeline of the divorce by being the one to begin the process
- The petitioner can take as much time as they need to deliberate and set the terms they seek in the petition while the respondent has only 21 days to form their response to each term
- Choosing the jurisdiction in which to file for divorce if you and your spouse have separated and live in different counties. This could save you travel time and inconvenience
- The petitioner gets to present their case first in court if the divorce is contested
- By being the petitioner in the process, a spouse can quickly get temporary orders for financial relief if they’ve separated from their spouse
- In abusive marriages, the element of surprise can help the abused spouse to protect themselves
- The petitioner may request a freeze on marital assets if they anticipate their spouse may try to hide or disperse funds
Being the one to file first in a divorce benefits some spouses emotionally by helping them to feel in control of the process.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Filing for a Colorado Divorce First?
Being the petitioner in the divorce is typically more expensive than being the respondent. The petitioner pays filing fees and may have to pay a process server to serve the paperwork to their spouse.
While spouses who are victims of domestic abuse may have the advantage of time to put protections in place before filing if they are the petitioner in the process, being the one to file may cause their abusive spouse to react with violence or threats. If this is the case, speak to your Denver family law attorney about a temporary restraining order for protection.