If you and your spouse are contemplating divorce, or if you have a custody order that needs to be modified, one consideration is who should file first. Divorce petition filing fees now exceed $200, and only the first to file, the petitioner, has to pay the filing fee. However, there are a number of good reasons to be the first to file. The most important reason is often overlooked: the person who files first almost always gets to speak first in court. This is important due to the way people, including judges, make decisions. The “primacy effect” is the psychological phenomenon describing how humans remember things that they hear first. For example, it has been shown that a person who reads a long list of words is more likely to later be able remember words from the beginning of the list rather than words in the middle of the list. When a divorce goes to trial, it means the spouses cannot resolve their differences by agreement and that each of them seeks a different result. Filing first is one way to seize the primacy effect and tell your story first, in a memorable way, to increase your likelihood of success.
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