Recognizing that you need to get out of your current marriage is truly the first, and sometimes the hardest, step to take. Along with this realization comes the knowledge that your life is about to change drastically, and you are about to begin a process that, for some, is emotionally and financially draining, and will have a permanent impact on not only your life, but the life of your current spouse, and your children (if you have any). Many unhappy spouses wrestle with the idea of divorce for months, weighing the pros and cons of starting over versus staying in their current predicament.

When you have come to terms with the fact that your marriage is heading for divorce, it’s important to be proactive in taking these first steps. Even if you and your spouse are on relatively good terms, and you think you can amicably end the marriage through mediation, speak to a divorce attorney. They can give you an idea of what the divorce process is going to be like, and depending on how much information you have gathered prior to the initial consultation, such as information on assets, estates, marital expenses and so on. They can also give you a rough idea of how everything might be divided. Keep in mind, however, that many attorneys may not divulge the latter, as they don’t have all the facts in front of them, and there are too many mitigating factors to accurately predict the result.

Because finances are of huge importance to both parties in the divorce, it is strongly advised that you begin collecting important financial documents, and storing them in a safe location, especially if it will support you in the upcoming divorce. Make copies to give to your attorney. Another step in preserving your finances is to establish your own, personal financial account, if you do not have one already. And lastly, keep in mind that divorces can be very expensive, and after the divorce, you wont have that second income to maintain the lifestyle you have grown accustomed to. Your financial plan is going to change a bit, so it’s a good idea to start tracking and recording your monthly expenses, in an attempt to create a new, efficient spending budget.

The final “first step” is to be the spouse that files for divorce. Even if you and your current spouse are both in favor of ending the marriage, taking the proactive step of filling first has major advantages, such as getting to speak first at hearings, having the last closing argument, and moreover, by filing first, you can file to have restraining orders put in place, and assets and bank accounts frozen, all seen as protective measures, instead of reactive (the court recognizes the difference). Like with any break-up, emotions run high, and it is important not to act on these emotions. Keep as level a head as you can, and focus on the task at hand, which is leaving the marriage in the best possible shape and condition that you can.