Is there an advantage to filing first for a divorce? This question comes up occasionally in divorce cases. The answer to the question, like most answers to legal questions,  depends on the circumstances of the divorcing couples. Venue (meaning the county where the divorce is heard) is initially established when the petition for dissolution of marriage is filed with the court. Where both husband and wife live in Missouri, a petition for divorce can be filed in the county in which either the wife resides or in the county where the husband resides. So why does it matter who is filing first for a divorce?

A strategic advantage may be gained by the person filing first for a divorce. For example if mother/wife lives in one county such as Boone County and father/husband lives in another county such as Cole County, filing first for a divorce initially sets up where the case will be heard, i.e. the case will be heard in Boone County where mother/wife lives, if she files her petition first with the court. One of the obvious considerations for filing first for a divorce is to eliminate travelling to the other county for court. A more important consideration, however, is whether the attitude or perspective of the judges in one county is different than the habits of the judges in another county. Only an experienced divorce lawyer is likely to know the habits and tendencies of the judges from one county to another. But, if the husband and wife reside in the same county, then the advantage to filing first for a divorce is significantly diminished.

Even if one spouse is filing first for a divorce, there exists the opportunity for the other spouse to seek a change of venue or possibly a transfer of venue under the appropriate circumstances. A change of venue or a transfer of venue involves moving the divorce case from the county where the divorce is filed to a different county. When, where, why and how to file for a change or transfer of venue are matters of law that must be discussed with a lawyer. Again, there may be strategic reasons for the move such as having the case heard on your “home turf,” having the case heard by a judge who may be more favorable to your position, and/or eliminating travel expenses. The circumstances of the husband, wife and/or children will likely dictate whether a change or transfer of venue is appropriate or necessary.

For more information on the subject of divorce and child custody, please contact attorney Scott Hamblin at (573) 821-4013, or Scott Hamblin is an experienced trial attorney and a partner in the law office of Brydon Swearengen & England P.C. Scott regularly practices before the courts and judges in mid-Missouri.