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Benefits to Filing for Divorce First in WA state?

Are There Benefits to Filing for Divorce First in WA?

Divorce is a complex and emotional process; in Washington, timing can play a significant role in the outcome. The decision of who files for divorce first is not just a procedural matter; it can impact various aspects of the divorce proceedings.

A spouse who decides to get a divorce may ask if there are advantages to filing for divorce first in Washington State. Let’s explore the legal nuances and strategic considerations that clients may want to bear in mind.

Initiating the Legal Process

Filing for divorce first means taking the initiative in initiating the legal proceedings. By being the petitioner, you have the opportunity to set the tone for the divorce and control the narrative from the beginning. This can be advantageous in shaping the overall direction of the case, especially when it comes to presenting your side of the story and framing the issues at hand. Where one lawyer may choose to file first and set a combative tone, if you take the lead you are able to make it clear that your intent is to keep things peaceful and move forward amicably. 

Establishing Jurisdiction

By filing first, you have the ability to choose the jurisdiction, which in divorce will be the county that the case is filed in. This can be important in cases where spouses are living apart. If you file the case you can ensure that the divorce is heard in a court that is convenient or more favorable to your circumstances. This strategic move can also impact the overall efficiency and fairness of the divorce proceedings.

First to Present In Court

Being the first to file allows you to present your evidence first during a hearing. For example, if you request a temporary hearing you are considered the moving party. The moving party presents their argument first in court and that can help to frame how the hearing will go.  This can be a crucial advantage, as the initial impression can influence the court’s perception of the case. Also by taking the lead in presenting evidence, you may set the stage for the court’s understanding of key issues such as child custody, spousal support, and division of assets. That said, most judges have seen enough cases to not be swayed just by the first speaker, so this advantage may be overestimated. 

Strategic Positioning for Negotiations

Filing for divorce first provides a strategic advantage in negotiations. It puts you in a proactive position, allowing you to outline your desired terms and conditions for settlement. This can potentially influence the negotiations, creating an environment where you have more control over the terms of the divorce agreement.

Influencing Temporary Orders

When it comes to temporary orders for issues like child custody, spousal support, and exclusive use of the marital home, the party who files first may have an advantage. Filing initiates the process of seeking temporary orders, enabling you to request the court’s intervention on crucial matters while the divorce is pending.

Gaining a Psychological Edge

The psychological aspect of divorce should not be underestimated. Filing first can create a sense of control and empowerment, which may positively impact your emotional well-being throughout the divorce process. Taking the initiative can help individuals feel more proactive and less reactive, leading to better decision-making.

Managing the Timeline

In Washington State, the divorce process can take several months. Filing first allows you to have some control over the timeline, potentially expediting or slowing down certain aspects of the proceedings based on your strategic objectives. Managing the timeline can be particularly crucial in situations where time is of the essence.

Filing for Divorce in Washington

Washington operates as a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that neither party needs to prove wrongdoing or assign blame for the marriage’s breakdown. The primary ground for divorce is “irreconcilable differences,” signifying that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

To initiate the divorce process, at least one spouse must have been a resident of Washington before filing. Once residency requirements are met, the petitioner can file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the local Superior Court. If both parties agree on the terms of the divorce, they can file jointly, streamlining the process.

Aspects Addressed

During the divorce proceedings, the court addresses various issues, including the division of property and debts, spousal support (alimony), child custody, visitation, and child support. Washington follows the principle of equitable distribution, which doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split of assets but aims for a fair and just division. 

Spousal support is determined based on factors such as the length of the marriage, financial contributions, and each party’s earning capacity.

Child custody decisions prioritize the best interests of the child, considering factors like each parent’s relationship with the child, their ability to provide a stable environment, and the child’s emotional and physical well-being. Child support calculations factor in the income of both parents and the child’s needs.

Finalization of Divorce

Once the court finalizes the divorce, a Decree of Dissolution is issued, officially ending the marriage. The court’s decisions regarding property division, spousal support, and child-related matters become legally binding. If one party disagrees with the court’s decision, they may have the option to appeal, though the grounds for appeal are limited.

Seeking legal guidance is crucial to navigating this process successfully and advocating for one’s interests within the bounds of state laws.

Take Control of Your Divorce Journey 

Be the first to file a divorce so you can be empowered to share the narrative and strategically navigate the process. However, while filing for divorce first in Washington comes with certain advantages, it’s essential to approach the decision strategically and in consultation with an experienced family law attorney. 

At Truce Law, we understand the importance of seizing the initiative, and our family law attorneys are here to guide you every step of the way. By choosing to be the petitioner in your divorce, you’re able to set the tone of the case, which can influence negotiations and allow you to manage the overall timeline.

Choose a Truce

Adversarial divorce is known for high conflict, stress, and financial strain. Unlike adversarial litigation, mediation or collaboration fosters open communication and cooperation, allowing couples to actively craft their agreements.

These alternatives often lead to quicker, cost-effective, and less stressful outcomes, preserving amicable relationships, especially crucial when children are involved. Embracing mediation or collaboration ensures a smoother transition, emphasizing resolution over contention.

If you feel this is the best route for you, let us be your trusted partner in achieving a resolution that aligns with your vision for the future. Contact us to schedule a consultation. You can reach us by calling (833) MY-TRUCE or emailing We have offices in Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia.

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