Is it Better to be the Petitioner or the Respondent?

In divorce, is it better to be the spouse who files for the dissolution or the spouse on the receiving end? 

While there isn't necessarily an advantage to either role, some factors can influence which role is more beneficial for an individual. 

The role of the petitioner

In a divorce proceeding, the petitioner is the spouse who files for divorce. 

The petition for dissolution of marriage outlines the reasons for the divorce and the desired outcome, which is often referred to as the marital settlement agreement. This document is then filed with the court, and the respondent is served with a copy. 

Once the respondent receives the petition from a process server, they have a set number of days to respond before the case proceeds. If they don’t respond, the petitioner may be granted a default judgment. In such a case, the divorce will be finalized without the respondent's involvement.

The role of the respondent

The respondent is the one who receives the divorce petition. Within a certain amount of time, they must respond to this document. What does this mean?

A response typically includes admitting or denying the allegations made in the petition. Counterclaims against the petitioner may also be made.

The respondent will also prepare a financial statement and other documents required by the court. If they don’t agree with the terms proposed by the petitioner, they can file a counterclaim. In other words, they file their own petition explaining why they think assets and debts should be distributed differently than what the petitioner suggested.

Helpful: Legal Separation vs. Divorce vs. Annulment

Pros and cons of being the Petitioner


  • Control: The petitioner has control over the initial filing and can set the tone for the remainder of the case. For example, if you know you plan to file, you can secure a divorce attorney first or learn about the divorce forms you need to fill out in advance, giving you a leg up on the process.
  • First impressions: The petitioner presents their arguments first. In family court, this can be advantageous.
  • Timing: The petitioner can initiate the divorce when it works best for them.


  • Cost: The petitioner is responsible for paying the initial court filing fee. Most courts also charge respondents, but it's often a smaller amount.
  • Pressure: The petitioner must provide sufficient evidence to support their case. This may have to do with their requested property division, spousal support, or child custody arrangement. This can be stressful.
  • Time: The petitioner is required to prepare the initial petition, which can be time-consuming and difficult to do without professional help or legal advice.

Helpful: Guide to Divorce Waiting Periods

Pros and cons of being the Respondent


  • Opportunity to respond: The respondent has the opportunity to respond to the allegations made by the petitioner and present their side of the story.
  • Time to prepare: If the respondent knows divorce is coming, they may have more time to prepare their response.
  • Counterclaims: The respondent can file a counterclaim, also known as a counter-petition, against the petitioner if necessary.


  • Cost: The respondent may be required to pay a filing fee if they file a counterclaim.
  • Pressure: The respondent must provide evidence to support their case, which can be stressful.
  • Lack of control: The respondent is not in control of the initial filing or when the divorce proceedings begin.

The decision of whether to be the petitioner or respondent in a divorce case is a personal one that should be based on individual circumstances. 

If you're considering divorce, it's important to weigh the factors. Whether you are the petitioner or the respondent, the most important thing is to protect your interests and move forward in the most positive way possible.

Hello Divorce offers a free 15-minute phone call to answer questions and determine how they can help. We offer affordable plans and services to guide you through the divorce process and help you achieve the best outcome possible. Divorce may be difficult, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.