How do you prepare for a divorce in the new year?

The first Monday after the start of the new year has been nicknamed “Divorce Day” by many family law firms — in large part because that’s when the first wave of new clients seeking a divorce comes through their doors.

The reasons people wait until January are highly varied and personal, but the holiday season often plays a role. If you’re one of the many people out there who is contemplating a January divorce, now is the time to prepare.

4 steps you can take now

Starting your preparations for your marital split after you announce your intentions to your spouse can be a mistake. No matter how well you think you know your them, they may surprise you with the intensity of their reaction.

To best protect yourself, these are some of the things you should do now:

  1. Gather all your personal paperwork. At a minimum, you should have your tax returns, copies of the deeds to any property, appraisals, business records, marriage documents (including any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement), insurance documents and estate plans.
  2. Take stock of your finances. Run your credit report so that you can see if there are any unexpected loans or other debts on there. Make sure you know what’s in all of your bank and investment accounts, your retirement plan and your other holdings.
  3. Begin separating your life. Setting up a P.O. box for your private mail, a separate bank account and a new email can help you manage the situation if your spouse turns hostile once you make your intentions known.
  4. Start building a support network. You may not be ready to tell your spouse you want a divorce — and definitely not the whole world. However, you should confide in a close friend, a sibling or a therapist. They can give you the emotional support you need moving forward.

Divorce doesn’t necessarily have to be hard. With luck (and cooperation from your spouse), yours won’t be. However, early preparation is often key to a successful outcome in any situation, including this one.