Divorce Strategy, Petitioner or Respondent?

There are some advantages for the person who files for divorce, also known as the petitioner, but the advantages do not compare to the internal turmoil that results which is why you should consider being the respondent instead.  The thought of divorce starts brewing when there is conflict percolating that goes unresolved.  One person avoids confronting the other, so the internal grumbling gets pushed off to another day and that seed of discontent resurfaces when something else goes wrong.  If you have young children you are in a pressure cooker, because both of you aren’t getting any sleep, you have less time to talk than you did before little ones, you are now in a position of disciplinarian and/or correcting daily and one person is usually more of the care-taker which means less caring for the other person and less caring for themselves in general (this is a season, don’t lose track of your end game).  If your relationship didn’t break with young kids, after the period  you either do not rebuild your relationship or you continue in the same negative relationship patterns that evolved during that time.  Long-term relationships are demanding work!  Marriages with children require even more work!  If you’re lazy, do not get married.  Like anything in this life, relationships require maintenance and upkeep for them to thrive.

If a thriving marriage seems nowhere in sight and you are considering divorce as a petitioner, it would be folly not to mention the immediate 5 advantages of this position in the divorce.

  1. The petitioner has the most time to find the right attorney. You can interview as many attorneys as you like and there will not be one single attorney that recommends you stay married.  They aren’t marriage counselors.  They are marriage destroyers.  Family law is their life and they will be eager to agree with whatever story you unload at their office as cause for the divorce.
  2. You, as the petitioner, are paying into the Family Law system upfront. The other person has zero skin in the game; however, as the petitioner you are already making the investment in controlling the outcome of your divorce settlement.  This is also somewhat of an illusion, because every state and county has rules and laws at which settlement is derived; however, you are the one steering the boat and it is your timetable and your timetable only.  Your spouse has zero say.  Even if your spouse wanted to file online, your spouse is stuck doing things your way through the court no matter what.
  3. You can take advantage of the loopholes in the system. There are certain deadlines, disclosures, et cetera that are required throughout the process; however, the petitioner will often surprise the respondent in court like delivering declarations at the hearing instead of beforehand like documentation requires (attorneys are not reprimanded for engaging in this type of courtroom scheming).  The purpose is to put added pressure on the respondent whether the respondent has an attorney or not so that the respondent will yield to what opposing council desires.
  4. A conniving petitioner has the advantage of hiding assets and cash. The court does not automatically order financial discovery.   Due to this fact, the petitioner has a monetary advantage unless the respondent chooses to enlist a financial discovery team; however, no team can explore offshore bank accounts.  Domestically they will only find something that the respondent has generally already discovered, but needs more backup.  For example, if the petitioner decided to open a bank account a year before they decided to file for a divorce and kept it a complete secret from the spouse.  Hiding assets is a crime; however, people will do the craziest things in a divorce and shockingly some get away with it.
  5. Finally, the petitioner has the first opportunity to engage in vengeful rhetoric aimed to break the respondent. The person who files is usually the person who is harder to please in the relationship.  They keep track of every single grievance either by literally writing it down or making mental notes throughout the relationship.  The petitioner could also be someone who wants to hide something that could damage the petitioner’s reputation, so the goal is to make the respondent sound like a bad person whether it’s true or not.  The court never verifies the story from either side.

Emotions in a divorce are nothing like you’ve ever experienced.  Divorce creates an emotional jungle which is why being the petitioner is more hurtful to the person petitioning than they realize.  All the reasons why they file for divorce are relived repeatedly during the process from the start.  If there isn’t abuse involved, being the petitioner is essentially giving up.  The person who files is rarely the person that’s happy after it’s over.  Their emotional state is likely to remain unchanged longer than that of the respondent.  As the respondent, the emotional jungle is still something to be dealt with; however, it is not all consuming like it is for the petitioner (this could be false, if there are other factors involved like alcohol dependency, drugs, disorders, etc.).  The respondent is faced with rejection; however, the petitioner undoubtedly left clues of dissatisfaction throughout the relationship so it’s not like the respondent can claim they were blindsided.  As the respondent, there are more mental advantages than monetary advantages and power plays.

  1. The respondent does not harbor bitterness which can slowly deteriorate and infect other relationships. This is huge, because when going through a divorce the lives of both people are turned upside down and maintaining friendships is critical to remain somewhat of a balanced person.  If you have children keeping your mind free of negativity helps you to parent wisely and recover from rejection.
  2. The respondent can make better decisions, because they aren’t steering the boat. As the respondent, you can focus on what really matters instead of past grievances or what the attorney(s) conjure up.
  3. If you’re the respondent, you know that you weren’t the one that gave up on your marriage. By definition, you are the more optimistic partner.  If you were given a choice in the matter, you probably would have gone to great lengths to save the marriage if you could.
  4. Being the respondent means you are more willing to be flexible and you are less selfish than your partner. You are relinquishing control to the other person by default.
  5. Finally, choosing to respond to a divorce filing rather than initiating a divorce filing means you take your wedding vows more seriously and commitment is something you honor. Even with all the conflict that made the other person file, you decided that filing for divorce would cause more harm than good.  As the respondent, you are taking the high road.

A long-term relationship is challenging work!  Marriage is no exception; add in children and the work is that much greater.  However, working through conflict, practicing forgiveness and honoring marriage unlocks the door to relationship contentment.  As the petitioner, you’re giving up and you’re letting your emotions drive your actions; as the respondent, you can find the eye of the storm and find peace through it all.  Yes, as the petitioner there are monetary and power play advantages, but as the respondent, you have a mental advantage.  Money is temporal and power plays damage the soul, neither is much of a win.   Choose respondent, go to great lengths to save your marriage now.  Do not wait for the other person.  If the other person files, at least you know you did your best.

Author: fyidivorce

Hello! You can call me the Straight Shooter. Too many divorce resources come from a family law perspective; my goal is to provide divorce tips with no sugarcoating. I've chosen Straight Shooter as my alias to keep things on topic and define my tone in all posts and comments. Looking forward to open dialogue about divorce.

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