What are the disadvantages of filing for divorce first in Nevada?

There are several possible advantages to filing for divorce first in Nevada, but there some drawbacks as well. Three disadvantages of being the first to file (the "plaintiff)" in a Nevada divorce include:

  1. The first to file gives the defendant the opportunity to wage an effective counter-attack
  2. The first to file typically spends more on court filing fees
  3. The first to file may put the final nail in the coffin of the marriage
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An attorney can help a spouse decide whether to file for divorce first.

1. The plaintiff gives the defendant the opportunity to wage an effective counter-attack

Although the spouse to file for divorce first generally controls the time frame and the venue, that spouse also shows his/her hand:

In the divorce petition, the plaintiff outlines everything he/she wants regarding the division of Nevada community property and child custody in Nevada, etc. This means that the responding spouse ("defendant") knows exactly what the plaintiff's demands are and can craft a strategic counterattack to peel away at them.

In some divorce cases, the defendant may be willing to agree to a very generous settlement. But if the plaintiff asks for less than what the defendant would have been willing to give, the plaintiff will end up with less than what the plaintiff may have had he/she let the other spouse file first.

2. The plaintiff typically spends more on court filing fees

Typically, the filing fee to file a divorce petition is more than the filing fee to answer a divorce petition. For instance, the fee in Clark County to file a divorce petition is $299. But the fee in Clark County to file a response to the divorce petition is only $217.

3. The plaintiff may put the final nail in the coffin of the marriage

If there is any hope of a troubled marriage working out, the spouse who files first often extinguishes that possibility. Filing first may be a good thing if the marriage is irretrievably broken, especially if the marriage is jeopardizing the plaintiff's mental and/or physical health. But filing first may be a tragic thing if the marriage could be mended with enough time and counseling.

Certainly, it is not uncommon for couples who have their case in the court system to still reconcile and simply withdraw their divorce petition. But for many couples, the very act of going to court is enough to drive the spouses to their separate corners permanently and relinquish any desire to see if they can make it work.

Some spouses who file first may later ask, "What if I just waited a little longer to see if things could have changed?" But by then, the divorce proceedings may be so far along it might seem impossible to stop it. Or the spouses may be too proud to admit to each other they may be making a mistake and would like to try again.

In sum, the spouse filing first ideally would feel completely sure that he/she wants a divorce. Because once he/she files, there may be no going back even if he/she might like to.

That is why couples may benefit from trying intensive couple's counseling prior to making any decisions about divorce. They also may wish to try a legal separation in Nevada first before taking the divorce plunge.

See our article on Does it matter who files for divorce first in Nevada?

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