PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ Former Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee Iacocca filed for divorce weeks before his wife did, but had the papers sealed as he tried to save the marriage, his attorney said.

Iacocca's wife of three years, former restaurateur Darrien Earle, filed for divorce last week in Los Angeles.

But Iacocca's attorney, Philip Vestevich, said Monday that Iacocca filed for divorce Sept. 1 in Oakland County (Mich.) Circuit Court. Judge John M. McDonald granted Iacocca's request to keep the petition sealed for 90 days, then granted a 15-day extension.

Iacocca wanted the petition sealed because ''media attention would've made any possibility of reconciliation absolutely impossible,'' Vestevich said.

But sealing the record was pointless after Darrien Iacocca filed, he said.

Vestevich said he didn't know why Iacocca sued his wife for divorce and then asked for time to save the marriage. The divorce suit states simply that the relationship has broken down.

Iacocca, 70, was divorced in 1987 from former airline attendant Peggy Johnson after 18 months of marriage. His first wife, Mary, died in 1983. They had been married for 37 years.