Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Illinois?

Filing for divorce is one of the most significant actions a married person can take, and the outcome of the divorce proceedings will have long-lasting effects. In states that allow spouses to assign fault for divorces, being the first one to file can often come with distinct legal advantages. However, Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, which means that your parental and property rights remain the same regardless of who files first. 


However, in practice, being the first party to file for divorce can give you the upper hand in some respects. The following factors are important to keep in mind when considering the timing of divorce filings in Illinois.

Choosing the Jurisdiction

If you and your spouse live in different counties or states, filing first allows you to choose the jurisdiction that will handle your case. This can be advantageous if you believe a particular court may be more favorable to your position or if one location is more convenient for you. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand each jurisdiction’s potential advantages and drawbacks.

More Time to Prepare

As the first to file, you have more time to gather necessary documents, secure legal representation, and develop a solid strategy before your spouse is even aware of your intentions. This extra preparation time can put you in a stronger and more confident position once the divorce proceedings begin.

Preserving the Status Quo of Your Children

If you have children, being the first to file can help establish the status quo for custody arrangements. Courts often prefer to maintain stability for children, so if you file first and your children remain with you, it may be easier to argue for a similar arrangement in the final custody order.

Safeguarding Finances

Filing first can prevent your spouse from hiding assets or racking up debt in anticipation of the divorce. Once the divorce petition is filed, if you fear your spouse will try to take more than their share of the marital assets before the divorce is finalized, you can file a temporary restraining order or try to get a preliminary injunction against them. Doing so will require that you prove you’d suffer harm without the court’s action, which can be difficult. You would be wise to engage an attorney if this is a concern.

First Word at Trial

If your case goes to trial, the spouse who files first typically has the opportunity to present their case first. This can be a strategic advantage, as it allows you to frame the issues and make a strong first impression on the judge.

Contact an Experienced Illinois Family Law Attorney

If you are considering filing for divorce, getting the timing right can make a significant difference to the outcome of your case. Working with a skilled attorney can help you understand your rights and options to optimize your chances of a favorable result. The experienced family law attorneys at Gravel & Wechter P.C., have been helping individuals in Lake County and Gurnee, Illinois, overcome their legal obstacles for over 25 years. Let us do the same for you. Call us today at (847) 855-8447 or contact us online for a confidential, no-obligation consultation to learn more about how we can support you.