Should You File for Divorce Jointly or Separately?

Filing divorce papers

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Some couples don’t have the option to file divorce papers jointly (say, if one or both parties are hostile toward the other or if one of the parties is adamantly against getting a divorce). But for the couples that do have the option of filing their divorce papers jointly, it’s worth considering: should you file for divorce separately or jointly?

Filing Jointly

If you file the papers jointly, it essentially means that you both agree you are getting divorced and you are optimistic that there may be some level of amenability in working out how everything will be separated and organized through the process. All the “service” stuff goes away (no one will be “served” with divorce papers) and you will save about $500 in filing fees, service, and paying an attorney to draft a Response to the initial Petition.

That would be the easy way to do it, but considering what divorce is and how emotional it can be, many couples do not go the easy route — it’s just too difficult.

Filing Separately

If you file separately, the filing party’s attorney will prepare and file a Petition. There will be a filing fee. It will be served on the other side. [The other side can accept service; however, it is rare that a spouse won’t agree to file a joint Petition, but will accept service.] The other side will then have an attorney prepare a Response and will pay a second filing fee. [It does not require personal service.]

In some cases, the only option is to file separately. One client I worked with many years ago said his wife had threatened to kidnap the children if he filed for divorce; in other words, there was no way he was going to convince her to file jointly and he needed to proceed with extreme caution to protect the children.

The most hotly-contended divorce cases I work on typically involve parties filing separately. These cases are often highly emotional and can even spiral into spiteful instances of parties attempting to one-up each other, and that includes the manner in which they choose to serve divorce papers.

A Word of Advice on Serving Divorce Papers…

If you want your divorce to be as quick, painless and inexpensive as possible, take care when deciding how to serve your significant other with divorce papers. In my observation, it is not a pleasant experience to be served with divorce papers, but most people can handle it if it is done in a respectful way. However, people tend to get vindictive when their soon-to-be-former spouse chooses to serve papers in a way that is humiliating.

For instance, I have seen spouses serve each other at work during a meeting, or at the home of his or her new significant other. I’ve had someone served in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner or at their child’s birthday party.

While this may feel good when you do it, the animosity and increased cost caused by that conduct is likely not worth it. Think carefully if you are considering serving someone in a way that will embarrass and anger them; those kinds of things tend to stick around and come out again later when the two parties are attempting to negotiate.

Truly, the best way to serve divorce papers is in a manner that is discrete and respectful. Agree on a time and a place when there are no colleagues, children or new significant others around and it can be done quickly. Down the line, this will save both of you a lot of strife.

Of course, every case is different. This advice may not work if you have extenuating circumstances, which is why it’s a good idea to speak with a practiced attorney before you take the next step. If you are going through a divorce, call our office at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation.

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