Is There an Advantage to Filing for Divorce First in Massachusetts?

Filing for divorce first in Massachusetts can provide some advantages such as:

  • Jurisdiction control,
  • Timeline management, and
  • Strategic positioning.

However, it won’t give you an overall advantage on the outcome. The court treats each party equally regardless of who filed first.


Hello, and welcome to our discussion on divorce proceedings in Massachusetts. I understand that you’re seeking affordable legal help to navigate this challenging time. In this article, we’ll explore the question: Is there an advantage to filing for divorce first in Massachusetts? Divorce can be emotionally and financially taxing, and understanding the potential benefits and drawbacks of being the first to file is crucial. Let’s delve into this topic to help you make informed decisions.

Understanding the Divorce Process
in Massachusetts

Before we discuss the advantages of filing for divorce first, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the divorce process in Massachusetts. The process typically involves filing a divorce complaint, serving it to your spouse, and proceeding through negotiations or court hearings. Massachusetts is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning you can file for divorce without specifying a particular reason. The court will grant the divorce once both parties agree or after a judge’s decision.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with key legal terms like “complaint,” “respondent,” and “petitioner.” The petitioner is the spouse initiating the divorce, while the respondent is the other party. The Complaint is the first document that needs to be filed with the court to start the process. The court plays a pivotal role in divorce proceedings, ensuring that the process is fair and just. Now, let’s move on to the advantages of being the first to file.

Advantages of Filing for
Divorce First

Establishing Jurisdiction and Venue

Filing for divorce first allows you to choose the jurisdiction and venue that best suits your case, at least to some extent. This strategic move can significantly impact the proceedings. Jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority to hear your case, while venue determines the specific location of the court. By initiating the process, you gain the advantage of selecting a court that aligns with your circumstances, making the entire process more convenient and favorable.

Control Over the Timeline

Being the petitioner gives you the power to control the divorce timeline. You can set the pace of the proceedings, helping you avoid potential delays caused by the respondent. This control is particularly advantageous if you have specific reasons for wanting a swift resolution, such as financial or emotional factors. You’re not entirely at the mercy of the court’s schedule, giving you more say in how quickly your divorce is finalized.

Strategic Advantages

Filing for divorce first allows you to initiate negotiations on your terms. You can present your terms and conditions for the divorce settlement, which can influence the overall outcome. Additionally, it can provide you with a psychological edge. As the petitioner, you may appear more prepared and determined, which can set a positive tone for the negotiations.

Temporary Orders

When you file for divorce first, you can request temporary orders for:

  • child custody,
  • child support, and
  • spousal support.

These temporary orders help establish stability during the divorce process and ensure that your children’s well-being is protected. Furthermore, as the petitioner, you may secure exclusive possession of the marital home, providing you with a place to reside during this transitional period.

Potential Disadvantages of Filing for Divorce First

Financial Responsibilities

It’s important to be aware of the financial responsibilities associated with filing for divorce first. Initiating the process comes with costs, including filing fees and potential attorney’s fees. These expenses can add up, so it’s crucial to budget accordingly. However, these costs should be weighed against the potential benefits and long-term financial implications.

Emotional Toll

Filing for divorce, whether first or not, can be emotionally taxing. As the petitioner, you may feel the added stress of initiating the process. It’s essential to acknowledge and address these emotions, seeking emotional support when needed. Friends, family, or therapy can provide valuable assistance in navigating the emotional challenges of divorce.

Respondent's Reaction

When you file for divorce first, you should prepare for your spouse’s response. They may:

  • contest the divorce,
  • file counterclaims, or
  • request temporary orders themselves.

It’s essential to be ready for these potential challenges and work with your attorney to respond effectively. Remember that divorce is a legal process, and disagreements are a common part of it.

Affordable Divorce Attorney

An affordable divorce is possible. At Afford Law, our fees are based on your income, so the less you earn, the less you pay. Our mission is to provide experienced legal help you can afford.

If you can’t afford our lower rates for a traditional attorney-client relationship, you have another option. Our legal coaching service can save you money and still give you access to a skilled attorney. In this arrangement, you represent yourself in court while we work with you behind the scenes to prepare you every step of the way. This service is available to you for one low monthly fee.


In conclusion, there are advantages and potential disadvantages to filing for divorce first in Massachusetts. It grants you control over jurisdiction, venue, and the timeline, along with strategic and temporary advantages. However, it also comes with financial responsibilities, an emotional toll, and the need to handle the respondent’s reaction.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances and receive tailored guidance.

More To Explore