When couples decide to divorce, the action must be initiated by one partner and answered by the other. The one who initiates the action is the petitioner or plaintiff and the one who answers it is the respondent or defendant.
Clients frequently want to know whether they should file the petition for divorce or let their partner do so. Are there any strategic advantages to either position?
In short, it depends, and a lot of it depends on the individuals' feelings about the marriage's end and divorce in general. Some people don't want to be portrayed as the one who initiates the divorce. Perhaps because of the minor children or some religious beliefs they hold, they prefer to let their spouse initiate the divorce action.
In general, the courts treat both petitioners and respondents equally in a divorce, with neither party gaining the upper hand by being the first to file. But the petitioner does have one slight advantage over the respondent in that the respondent must be served with the petition for divorce by a civil sheriff's deputy. Being served with divorce papers can be humiliating, especially if it occurs on the job. Avoiding that scenario is usually best. Of course, if the defendant in a divorce has already retained counsel, being served can be avoided by having their attorney accept service of process in the divorce.
If you anticipate being served with divorce papers in the near future, it is always a good idea to seek the guidance of a Clarksville family law attorney who can advise you on how to protect your interests.