Man taking off his wedding ring after initiating a divorce

Who is the Plaintiff in a Divorce in Your Situation?

If your marriage is ending and you and your spouse are headed for divorce, who is the plaintiff in a divorce may seem like a trivial matter. However, from a legal perspective, there are certain advantages to being the person who files for divorce and assumes the role of plaintiff.

Learn more about why it matters who files for divorce, how the roles of plaintiff and defendant can affect the divorce proceedings, and why it helps to work with a Texas family law attorney to ensure you complete the divorce process.

Identifying the Plaintiff and Defendant in Your Divorce Case

When you or your spouse file divorce papers, the top of the divorce petition will note who the plaintiff is in the divorce. The plaintiff is always listed as the first of the two parties in the case caption at the top of the divorce paperwork. This is the party who filed the divorce papers.

The other party in a divorce is known as the defendant. This is the spouse who did not file the divorce papers. While the plaintiff files the divorce case, the defendant responds to the case and its claims.

A plaintiff must take action to be the plaintiff – including paying filing fees and noting the grounds for divorce – but the defendant does not have to do anything until they are served with papers.

Being the defendant in a divorce case has some advantages. For example, suppose that you are not especially anxious to get divorced. Waiting for your spouse to take divorce action and take on the plaintiff’s role may delay your divorce for months or years.

However, if you are eager to proceed with a divorce, there are certainly benefits of filing for divorce and taking on the role of plaintiff.

Benefits of Being the Plaintiff in a Texas Divorce

Consider the following key advantages of being the plaintiff in your divorce case.

1. You Control the Pace of Your Divorce Case

As the plaintiff, you not only file the initial paperwork but are in the driver’s seat regarding how quickly your case proceeds.

For your case to move swiftly, you can bring the matter up for hearings as the court and Texas law allow. If you decide you want to try to reconcile with your spouse, you can always dismiss your case.

2. You Determine Where the Case Is Filed

If you and your spouse are physically separated before going through the divorce process, you can decide where the divorce case will be filed. For example, if you live in Fort Bend County and your spouse bought a new home in Galveston County, you can choose to file paperwork in Fort Bend County.

Assuming you both meet the Texas residency requirements for the areas where you each live, your divorce case can be filed in your desired location. Choosing the filing location can mean you don’t have to travel to wherever your spouse is presently living, saving you time and effort.

3. You Can Ask for Ex Parte Orders

Ex parte orders are temporary, emergency orders that a court grants without a hearing and before notice is given to the other side. These orders can be especially helpful if you are a victim of domestic violence. 

When you file for divorce, you can present evidence to the court of the other spouse’s abuse and ask for a temporary order providing you with certain benefits. For example, you can request custody of your children or temporary possession of certain assets, like a car.

Additional Issues to Consider in a Texas Divorce

Initiating a divorce allows you to present your version of why the divorce is occurring. For example, if you are assigning fault to your spouse, you can make notes in the petition that explain why you are seeking a fault divorce. This may help you down the road if seeking spousal support (alimony) from your spouse.

Additionally, if your spouse does not agree with the divorce, you can present an upfront explanation about why you are pursuing a divorce. Taking action could help you down the line if the situation turns into a contested divorce.

From a financial perspective, you can help your cause when the judge decides on the division of assets, including marital property and other items that are up for discussion during the legal proceedings.

If you have children through the marriage, you can position yourself for a potentially favorable ruling in child custody and child support matters.

To be clear, Texas courts do not decide divorce issues based on which spouse files first, and the courts routinely make decisions independent of which spouse is the plaintiff. However, presenting your version of events when filing a petition can help set the tone for the case.

Who Is the Plaintiff in a Divorce: Contact Parker & Aguilar Today For More Support

Knowing who is the plaintiff in a divorce case is significant. Clearly, the person who files for divorce has the opportunity to realize several significant advantages. If you believe it is time to file for divorce, filing first may be in your best interests.

If you are ready to take this step, reach out to our helpful team of divorce attorneys at Parker & Aguilar. We currently help residents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County.

If you live in one of these counties, call our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land) for prompt, professional, and personalized legal counsel. We are here to help you throughout the divorce process.