If your marriage is failing, both you and your spouse may contemplate filing for divorce. While there is value in trying to make a marriage work, you may worry about having your partner beat you to the courthouse. That is, you may think the person who files for divorce has an advantage. 

In Minnesota, the spouse who files for divorce is the petitioner, while the other spouse is the respondent. These legal terms are mostly meaningless. Still, you must identify whether you are the petitioner or the respondent to know which set of court rules applies to you. You should realize, though, that your title likely makes little difference in your divorce’s outcome. 

No-fault statute 

For divorce purposes, Minnesota is a no-fault state. As such, rather than assigning blame on either a husband or wife, when issuing a divorce decree, a judge must just determine that the marriage has reached an irretrievable breakdown. Accordingly, you can assume the judge in your case will likely draw no inferences about your conduct simply because your spouse filed for divorce before you did. 

Marital property 

In the Gopher State, judges assume that both parties to the marriage have made equal contributions. As such, unless there is evidence to the contrary, all property is marital property. In a divorce matter, this does not change whether you are the petitioner or the respondent. Said differently, you should receive your fair share of marital wealth, even if you were not the one who filed for divorce. 

Child custody 

If you have children, they are likely your top priority. While you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse may be able to negotiate a custody agreement, a family law judge is apt to consider the children’s best interests when awarding custody. Being either a divorce petitioner or a respondent does not effect the outcome of a custody matter. 

You may have personal reasons for wanting to file for divorce before your husband or wife does. From a legal standpoint, though, the distinction is not meaningful. Therefore, you are probably better off letting other factors dictate when you decide to dissolve your marriage.