Petitioner vs. Respondent in Divorce: What You Need to Know

February 22, 2022

Petitioner vs. Respondent in Divorce: What You Need to Know

A divorce can feel like an unthinkable end to what was once a beautiful marriage. The emotional toll and financial burden divorce can cause are immense. This is why couples who decide to end their relationship may find the legal process of a divorce to be incredibly daunting.

However, when a couple decides to get a divorce, specific roles need to be defined for the divorce to proceed. One of the most important distinctions is the role of each party in the divorce: petitioner and respondent. Both roles have specific implications in a divorce. By understanding the role of each party, you can be better prepared for what to expect in your divorce.

What Is the Difference Between a Petitioner and a Respondent?

In a divorce, the petitioner is the spouse who initiates the divorce proceedings. The respondent is the spouse who responds to the petition for divorce. One of the most popular age-old questions on these roles is "which one is the good guy, and which one is the bad guy?" The answer isn't so cut-and-dry.

The petitioner is merely the spouse who files for divorce. This is a matter of procedure and doesn't imply any sort of legal or moral high ground. One party is always the first to file for divorce, and this can occur for any number of reasons, such as the other party having an affair. The petitioner is the spouse who starts the legal process, and they are also known as the plaintiff in a divorce case. On the other hand, the respondent is the spouse who responds to the initial petition for divorce. The respondent will either agree to the divorce or contest it. If the respondent contests the divorce, they are known as the defendant.

It's important to note that just because one spouse is the petitioner doesn't mean they are automatically the "good guy." Nor does being the respondent make you the "bad guy." The terms simply refer to which spouse filed for divorce and which spouse is responding to that filing. Colorado law does not grant any specific privileges or advantages to either the petitioner or respondent.

Debunking The Myths

There are many myths surrounding the roles of petitioner and respondent. Perhaps the most common is that the petitioner is automatically granted a divorce while the respondent has to prove why they deserve to stay married. This is simply not true.

In reality, both the petitioner and respondent play an active and equal role in the divorce proceedings. The petitioner is the one who initiates the process, but both spouses will have to appear in court and present evidence to support their case. The judge will then make a decision based on the evidence presented by both sides.

Another common myth is that the petitioner can choose to keep the family home while the respondent is forced to leave. Again, this is not true. The petitioner and respondent have an equal right to the family home, and the court will make their best possible decision based on the evidence presented.

Tips for Being the Petitioner or Respondent

Whether you are the petitioner or respondent, there are a few things you can do to make the divorce process go as smoothly as possible.

If you are the petitioner, some tips include:

  • Be transparent and honest with your spouse about your intentions
  • Be organized and keep track of all documents related to the divorce
  • Stay calm and don't get into arguments with your spouse

If you are the respondent, some tips include:

  • Read everything carefully and ask for clarification if something is unclear
  • Respond to all requests from the petitioner in a timely manner
  • Be cooperative and try to reach an agreement with your spouse wherever possible.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter what role you are playing in the divorce, it will benefit you to stay calm and level-headed. The process can be incredibly stressful, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you through this difficult time. Speak with a lawyer if you have any questions or need more information about Colorado divorce law.

Do I Need a Divorce Attorney?

You are not required to have an attorney to get divorced in Colorado. However, the divorce process can be complicated, and it is usually in your best interest to have an attorney help you navigate the legal system. An experienced divorce attorney can provide guidance and support throughout the entire process and help you understand your rights and options.

Some notable benefits of having an attorney include:

  • Help you understand the divorce process and what to expect
  • Gather evidence and present your case in court
  • Negotiate a settlement with your spouse
  • Represent you in court if necessary

Whether you are the petitioner proactively seeking a divorce or the respondent who has been served divorce papers, an attorney can be an invaluable asset. Contact an experienced Colorado divorce attorney to discuss your options if you are considering a divorce.


Q: Is it better to be the petitioner or respondent in a divorce?

A: There is no advantage to being either the petitioner or respondent in a divorce. Colorado law does not grant any specific privileges or advantages to either party.

Q: What if my spouse and I can't agree on anything?

A: If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, the court will make a decision based on the evidence presented by both sides. This can be a lengthy process, so it can be beneficial to both parties to try to reach an equitable agreement before heading to court when possible.

Q: Can I keep the family home if I am the petitioner?

A: Not necessarily. The petitioner and respondent typically have an equal right to a shared family home. The court will make a decision based on the evidence presented.

Q: How much does it cost to get a divorce in Colorado?

A: There is no set fee for getting a divorce in Colorado. The cost will depend on the complexity of your case and whether you hire an attorney. It's important to consider that the legal fees for representation can seem small compared to the cost of any mistakes made by representing yourself.

Contact Johnson Law Group for Divorce Support

If you are considering a divorce and have questions about the process, contact Johnson Law Group. We can provide guidance and support throughout the process and help you understand your rights and options, whether you are the petitioner or respondent. We look forward to helping you through this difficult time and putting you on the path to a bright and healthy future.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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