Is It Better to File My Case First?Clark R. Ward
Once a case is filed, it triggers a 120-day window to have a copy delivered (served) on the opposing party. If that doesn’t happen, you have to file all over again and pay another filing fee. Is there an advantage in filing first? Before a case is filed, then either party has all the time in the world to get copies of records, transfer assets and emotionally prepare for the case to begin.
Whoever files first has usually made significant emotional closure on the relationship and can think more clearly and objectively. The non-filing party may not be either emotionally or financially ready to deal with the case, but they must because there are only 20 days to file a response to the initial court documents that are served on you. Sometimes getting papers delivered by a constable comes as a complete surprise. Even if it isn’t, there is the immediate high tension of wondering what is being asked for.
You will likely be so stressed at getting served legal documents that you won’t be able to understand the words glaring right in front of you. On top of that you will likely have to scramble to get copies of important records to build your case in response, while the person who filed first has had all the time in the world to do so before they filed.
At a time when your whole world may be turned upside down, you must need to think as clearly and objectively as you can, but the shock may prevent you from doing so. An experienced lawyer can be that objective voice for you and help you navigate through the difficult process.
The party who files first also presents their case first at trial. That can be important because you have the initial and immediate attention of the judge. It’s like making the first impression. The other party, meanwhile, cannot help but be on the defense before they present their case in rebuttal. I’ve seen (and done) a strategy where the party who starts the hearing first takes up most of the time, leaving the responding party with no choice but to present an abbreviated case.
What if you are not sure? It’s okay to wait, but just be aware that the other side may already be planning ahead and may force you to respond to their papers when you are not ready.
How do you prepare for what may be inevitable? Consult a good, experienced lawyer.
For More Information:
Clark R. Ward, Attorney-at-Law
Clark R. Ward Family Law
6925 Union Park Avenue, Suite 550
Salt Lake City, UT 84047
Email: [email protected]