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Being first to divorce court has several benefits

Though most married couples say "I do" at the same time, few say "I don't want to anymore" in unison. Divorce announcements can fall like an ACME anvil out of the clear blue sky on unsuspecting spouses. Others might have some notion that their once life partner is looking to split. In still other cases, the two parties may already be separated, but no official steps have been taken to dissolve the union.

In any situation where both sides are considering divorce, it may prove beneficial to be the first to file official papers on the proceeding. One divorce expert notes both financial and legal benefits could come from filing first, though solid preparation is always a good idea.

Making the first moves toward divorce could allow one time to prepare by gathering all necessary documentation. Especially in cases where the other spouse controls the finances, taking initiative to make copies of all financial statements could prove helpful down the road.

Also, filing first could prevent one spouse from hiding property or other assets, which unfortunately does happen. Prevention of asset hiding is accomplished mainly through an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order. In Massachusetts, these automatically take effect upon filing for divorce and prevent any unusual spending or hiding of assets.

Being the first to file also allows one to assemble a solid divorce team. In addition to an experienced divorce attorney, many also recommend a good therapist to assist with the emotional transition, and a vocational expert for those divorcees looking to get back into the job market.

A financial analyst could also be key in understanding the sometimes complex mix of assets that will be divided as part of the divorce. In Massachusetts, equitable distribution determines how assets should be divided between divorcing spouses. Instead of simply splitting everything in two, a judge has the discretion to split things up based on what the judge deems fair. This could mean, for example, that the higher earning spouse receives a larger portion of the assets.

Knowledgeable legal counsel can help ensure that a spouse gets his or her fair share. And, as with most things, being prepared can make life flow more smoothly, even in the middle of a divorce.

Source: Forbes, "What Are The Financial And Legal Advantages Of Being First To File For Divorce?" Jeff Landers, March 26, 2013

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