Filing First: Is There a Benefit to Being the Petitioner?

The person who makes the initial filing in a Utah divorce is called the petitioner, and from that point in the legal proceedings, they are referred to by that title. The responding party is referred to as the respondent.

Often times in a divorce, both parties know their marriage is headed for demise. This can sometimes turn the filing of the divorce petition into somewhat of a race. It may be frustrating if the other party files their petition before you have a chance to file yours. In some events, you may even be in the process of drafting your petition when your spouse serves you first.

While we understand the frustration, keep in mind, there’s generally little to no reason to race to the courthouse.

Your Voice Will Be Heard

The petitioner has the opportunity to tell their side of the story and make his or her requests in the initial petition. But the respondent will have a chance to respond to any of the petitioner’s claims as well as file a counter petition if they wish to do so. The responding party will outline whether or not they are in agreement with the terms outlined in the petition.

In the event your attorney has drafted a petition, most of the work can be easily converted to a counter petition, so their time and effort don’t go to waste.

Staying Optimistic

If you want to look at the glass as being half full, being the respondent can certainly have its advantages.

The filing fee for a response is less expensive than the filing fee for a petition. If the other party has an attorney willing to accept service for your documents you may also save money and time on service fees.

In most cases, the petitioner’s counsel is also responsible for preparing the final decree of divorce. Reviewing the petition can also help you identify the other party’s requests, which can be helpful in building a strategy for your position and for settlement negotiations.

While it may seem like you have plenty of time to respond to the other party’s petition, we always recommend getting counsel as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the day before your response is due. If you don’t file a response in a timely manner, the petitioner will likely try to seek a default against you, which can greatly complicate the case further if you’re not in agreement or even cause you to lose the case altogether.

Obtaining counsel with time to spare will allow you to strategize with your attorney and finalize your response without feeling like you’re under the gun.

Keeping a Clear Head

Other than establishing the basic deadlines of the case, who files first doesn’t bear much weight. It’s important not get too hung up on who files initially. Don’t let your competitive nature and harsh feelings toward the other party get in the way of reason. It’s important to set your feelings aside and be open to negotiation opportunities. Your responsibilities as a respondent can be confusing, and not understanding them can be detrimental to your case. Burton Family Law Attorneys have the experience and the knowledge to assist you in your family law case and guide you through the complex legal system.

Your responsibilities as a respondent can be confusing, and not understanding them can be detrimental to your case. The attorneys at Burton Law have the experience and the knowledge to assist you in your family law case and guide you through the complex legal system.


Ken is the founder of Burton Attorneys at Law and finds the challenge of practicing law extremely rewarding. Although Ken has a broad assortment of experience ranging from bankruptcy to civil litigation to criminal law, Ken’s practice is tailored almost exclusively to the area of family law.

He chose to practice in the family law arena because of the positive and direct impact for good he saw in the lives of his clients.

Having twice been named one of Utah’s Legal Elite by Utah Business Magazine, Ken has a solid reputation as an effective advocate for his clients. He is actively involved in local and state bar associations, serves on various boards of directors and with volunteer organizations, and as a mentor for newly admitted attorneys.

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