How Important is it to be “First” to File for Divorce in Virginia?

By Published On: November 6, 2015

As a Virginia divorce and family lawyer, I am often asked “Is it important to file divorce papers first?  Is there an advantage to filing for divorce before my spouse does? How important is it for me to move quickly?”

For many clients, it is natural to feel a sense of urgency about divorce. This can come from fear, uncertainty about the future or a sense of crisis about their situation.

Regardless of whether you are the one who is initiating the divorce or the divorce is being imposed upon you, it is very common to feel a sense of urgency.

In most cases, the best advice I can give clients is to resist the urge to act in haste coming from a place of fear. Instead, I suggest they clarify their goals before making a decision to file. For example, it may not be the most effective strategy to rush to the courthouse without exploring alternative options.   Litigation is expensive, adversarial, and inflexible.

Also, there is a risk that starting off a divorce case by initiating litigation will alienate your spouse.  This could undermine the possibility of reaching a favorable divorce settlement.

Just as important, many clients are more satisfied with their outcome through settlement options that are conducted outside the courthouse. These options include, negotiation, mediation or Collaborative Practice.

Yet, every family law situation and divorce in Virginia is unique and there are cases where there is real need for urgency. Examples include cases where bank accounts are being cleaned out, a person’s safety is threatened, or where there is a risk that children will be taken out of the country and not returned.

So rather than focusing on speed in initiating legal action, concentrate your attention on what your unique goals are for yourself and your family in the divorce.  Once your goals are clarified, you and your attorney can work together to achieve those goals.

For more information on Virginia family law and divorce, please call Richard Gray at 703.896.7663.

Heading up the Virginia family law and divorce practice for FTLF, Richard Gray works with clients to find solutions for moving forward and maintaining civility with each other, especially for the sake of children, rather than spending unnecessary resources prolonging conflict. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the President-Elect of the Fairfax, Virginia Bar Association and has been recognized by the Washington Post and Northern Virginia magazine as a top attorney in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area.