Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First?

Whether or not to file for divorce first in Dallas, Texas may have an effect on your divorce case.  When it comes to issues that need immediate attention at the beginning of a divorce action, the fact that you file for divorce first can set in motion a series of events that can directly benefit you.

When a person files for divorce, that person can request a Temporary Orders Hearing in the Original Petition for Divorce.  The purpose of the Temporary Orders hearing is what I refer to as “putting a Band-Aid on the situation.”  The Judge is going to make orders that will remain in place during the pendency of the case.  These orders include possession schedules for you and your spouse’s time with the children, conservatorship of the children, child support, who gets to remain in the marital residence during the pendency of the case and who must vacate the marital residence, temporary spousal support, and who will be responsible for certain bills.  Filing for divorce first may give you an advantage when comes to issues at the Temporary Orders hearing in that you will likely have more time to prepare for this hearing than your spouse will have. 

If two people are married without children and a temporary orders hearing is not necessary at the beginning of the divorce action, then it will not likely matter who files for divorce first.  Average filing fees for divorce actions range from $300.00 - $350.00 plus the costs of personal service of the Divorce Petition on your spouse.  These are costs that are paid by the person who files for divorce first. If you do not file first, you can expect the filing fees to be approximately $35.00 and you will not need to pay for personal service of the Counter-Petition for Divorce on your spouse. 

It is important to speak with your attorney at the beginning of your case to establish what your short and long term goals are for your divorce.  Depending on your goals, it may be beneficial to file for divorce first as opposed to waiting for your spouse to file first.


Texas Divorce FAQ: Where do I file for divorce?

Divorces are typically held at the petitioner’s county courthouse. Texas, like all other states, has residency requirements that parties must meet before they can file for divorce. Texas requires that the petitioner live in the state for six months and in the county for 90 days before filing. If the parties have separated and lived in different counties for more than 90 days, then the divorce can be filed in either spouse’s county of residence. If neither party meets the residency requirements, then the parties may have to wait to file until they establish residency in a Texas county.

What to Expect in Your First Meeting with a Divorce Lawyer


Like going to the doctor, people often put off consulting with a divorce attorney because they are afraid to hear bad news or cannot bear to face the problem.  This is the worst thing you can do for your divorce case.  In a divorce, knowledge is power and a promptly scheduled consultation with a reputable divorce attorney is one of the best ways to get it.  Keep these things in mind to help dispel the anxiety and stress that accompany many people to their first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

First, remember that the attorney you are consulting with is on your side.  We understand that you have likely never done this before, that you are scared, and that you need information. During your consultation we will give you information of the law as it applies to your case, work to identify the major issues in your case, and attempt to provide you with a realistic assessment of your options.  Our goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for you – you are hiring a divorce attorney to be your advocate. 

In order to assess your case and give you the information you need, understand that we need information from you.  During your consultation we will delve into personal issues like the history of your marriage, what you think might have led to the divorce, your relationship with your children, and the status of your finances. Know that what you say to us in your initial consultation and throughout the attorney-client relationship is confidential. Do not be afraid to be honest – that is one of the most essential aspects of a successful attorney-client relationship. You will not shock us with what you say and we will not judge you. 

While we will give you our assessment of your case and provide you with information on the law and your legal rights, do not be afraid to ask questions.   Let us know what is important to you and what you want to know. Your initial consultation with a divorce attorney should be a safe place for you to get the information you need to better understand the process and to begin making sense of the confusion swirling around you.


Is There A Divorce Busy Season?

Typically, January through March is considered the "busy season" for divorce lawyers in Dallas.  After the first of the year, interest picks up in people wanting to file for divorce in Texas.  Many speculate that new year's resolutions give the spark to action for some.  Others figure that unhappy couples stay together through the holidays, intending to split afterwards.

I've also heard a theory that couples split after the Superbowl due to drinking and fighting.  I have to say I've never had any client as a Dallas divorce lawyer give me that as a reason for getting a divorce.  Some think Valentines might be a factor -- stay together long enough to see what the Valentine's present is, then call the divorce attorney.

Recently, a reporter in Columbus Ohio wrote that the statistics there show that March is the busiest month for new divorce filings, most likely because it takes a month or two to get an appointment with the divorce attorney, get the money together to pay her, and get the divorce on file.  See the article Couples Most LIkely To Call It Quits In March.


How To Find a Good Lawyer When You Need One

Today, Michelle May O'Neil, Board Certified Family Law Attorney of Dallas Family Law boutique O'Neil Attorneys, posted an article on How to Find a Good Lawyer When You Need One? via JD Supra.

SUMMARY: Most people do not have a clue how to find a good lawyer when they need one. In fact, statistics show that 68% of consumers spend two hours or fewer gathering information before selecting a lawyer. The vast majority of consumers report feeling they “can trust” their lawyer is the most important factor in the selection process. Dallas Family Lawyer Michelle May O'Neil reviews the best way to find a good lawyer when you need one.


This advice provided by Michelle May O'Neil is particularly useful when searching for a good divorce lawyer or family lawyer in Dallas Texas, including a divorce lawyer that handles child custody or division of business interests in a divorce.

Michelle May O'Neil has over 18 years of experience representing men, women, and children related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as "a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty", Ms. O'Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client's difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client's goals.

O'Neil maintains her divorce law firm in Dallas, Texas. You can learn more about her at or read her blog at Dallas Divorce Law Blog.

Collin County Texas Divorce Standing Order

In Collin County, Texas, every divorce that gets filed has the Collin County Standing Order attached to it, which is effective against both parties to the divorce.  The Standing Order replaces the previous procedure to apply for the standard family law restraining orders.  The purpose of the Standing Order is to provide some general rules of behavior for parties during a divorce. It prohibits behaviors such as changing the child's school or day-care, making harassing phone calls, or opening the other parties mail.  It also prohibits either party from changing beneficiaries on life insurance or disconnecting utilities at either party's residence.

As far as enforceability... the Standing Order is not very enforceable.  So, if there's some behavior you are particularly interested in curtailing, the better course of action is to get an order from the court directed specifically at the party to prohibit the action. 

Is Divorce a Good Idea in this Recession?

I have been asked several times lately about whether it is a financially good idea or a bad idea to get a divorce during this recession.  Luckily, Texas and specifically the Dallas area, has not been hit as hard by the recession as other parts of the country.

Determining whether divorce is the right option for you requires weighing many different factors, including the financial impact of this decision on you and your family. It is no surprise that with the current state of our economy, the portion of the community estate most people leave their marriage with today is worth less now than it was in the very recent past. Whether it is a bad idea to get a divorce in the current economic climate depends, in part, on the types of assets that make up the community estate and the financial positions of the parties, namely, their immediate need for cash and liquid assets.

Often in a divorce, it is necessary to sell the marital residence and/or cash out an investment or retirement accounts. Now, with the current economy, these assets are worth less than they were in the past and will be again in the future. Frequently, in these tough financial times, people must sell their marital residence upon divorce because neither of them can afford it on their own. Cashing out retirement and other investment accounts upon divorce is also common due to increasing unemployment and the immediate need for cash. If selling or cashing out these assets at their current value is unavoidable, there are some definite economic disadvantages to getting a divorce right now.

 On the other hand, for those people in the financial position to hold on to these assets until the economy improves, it can give them more “bang for their buck” in the final property division. Since community assets are valued as of the date of divorce, these assets represent a smaller portion of the community estate now than they would have before the current economic downturn. The current economy enables people who can afford it the opportunity to obtain community assets in the final property division, like the marital residence or their entire 401(k) plan, at what is effectively a discount.